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In the following pages we have endeavoured to set forth 
an account of the customs and social organisation of certain 
of the tribes inhabiting Central Australia 

It has been the lot of one of us to spend the greater part 
of the past twenty years in the centre of the continent, and 
as sub-protector of the Aborigines he has had exceptional 
opportunities of coming into contact with, and of gaining 
the confidence of, the members of the large and important 
Arunta tribe, amongst whom he has lived, and of which 
tribe both of us, it may be added, are regarded as fully 
initiated members. 

In the month of July, 1894, we met at Alice Springs, when 
the scientific expedition organised by Mr. W. A. Horn, of 
Adelaide, visited that part of the continent, and it was then 
that one of us gave to Dr. E. C, Stirling, the anthropologist 
of the expedition, notes which have since been published in 
the anthropological section of the report on the work of the 
expedition. This report included the results of the informa- 
tion gained up to that time with regard to the Central tribes, 
and in respect to certain points, we have, to some extent, had 
to traverse the same ground in order to make our account as 
complete as possible ; but it was very evident that in regard 
to the customs and organisation of the tribe we were then 
only on the threshold of the inquiry, and at a subsequent 
time we determined to carry on the work. 



During the summer of 1896-7, the natives gathered to- 
gether at Alice Springs to perform an important series of 
ceremonies, constituting what is called the Engwura, and 
this, which occupied more than three months, we witnessed 
together. The series of ceremonies then enacted enabled us 
not only to gain a knowledge of, and an insight into the 
meaning of certain of them, which until then had not been 
seen by Europeans, but also served to indicate lines of in- 
quiry along which further investigation would prove to be of 

In addition to the investigation of various customs, such as 
those connected with initiation and magic, we have paid 
special attention to the totemic system and to matters con- 
cerned with the social oi^anisation of the tribes. In con- 
nection especially with the totemic system, we desire to 
emphasize the fact that, whilst there is some degree of 
uniformity in regard to customs amongst the series of tribes 
inhabiting the continent, there is also, as might be expected, 
very considerable diversity. The physical conditions of the 
continent are such that groups of tribes inhabiting various 
regions have been, to a large extent, isolated from one another 
for a long period of time and have undoubtedly developed 
along different lines. The result is that, in respect to the 
totemic system, for example, groups of tribes differ from one 
another to a large extent, and the customs of no one tribe or 
group can be taken as typical of Australia generally in, at 
most, anything but broad outline. 

The question of the social organisation of the Australian 
tribes and the significance of the " terms of relationship " 
have given rise to a considerable amount of difference of 
opinion, and into these we have inquired as carefully as 
possible. The result of our work is undoubtedly to cor- 
roborate that of Messrs. Howitt and Fison in regard to 
these matters. 


We have endeavoured to set forth the results of our in- 
vestigations so that the reader may see, on the one hand, the 
actual facts, and on the other, the conclusions at which, in 
certain cases, we have arrived after a consideration of these. 

As it has been our main object to write simply an account 
of the Central tribes, we have not referred to the work of 
other authors, except so far as it was directly concerned with 
the tribes investigated. The work by Mr. W. E. Roth on 
the Aborigines of North-West Central Queensland reached 
us when our manuscript was written, and we have added 
references to it chiefly in the form of footnotes. Mr, Roth's 
work bears more closely upon certain parts of ours than that 
of any other author does, and is in some respects, especially 
in connection with the system of oi^anisation, the most de- 
tailed account yet published of any Australian tribe, and we 
gladly take this opportunity, as fellow- workers in the same 
field, of expressing our high appreciation of his work. 

The time in which it will be possible to investigate the 
Australian native tribes is rapidly drawing to a close, and 
though we know more of them than we do of the lost Tas- 
manians, yet our knowledge is very incomplete, and unless 
some special effort be made, many tribes will practically die 
out without our gaining any knowledge of the details of their 
oi^anisation, or of their sacred customs and beliefs. 

We have, in conclusion, the pleasant duty of acknowledg- 
ing the assistance received from various friends. To Mr. 
C. E. Cowie and Mr. P. M. Byrne, both of whom, from long 
residence amongst them, are well acquainted with the natives, 
we are indebted in various ways for the most cordial assist- 
tance, and to Mr. Cowle one of us owes the opportunity of 
traversing certain parts of the interior which would otherwise 
have been inaccessible to him. 

To Mr. C. Winnecke we are especially indebted. There is 
no one who has a fuller knowledge of the topography of 



Central Australia, and this knowledge he most generously 
and freely placed at our disposal, drawing up for us the two 
maps on which are indicated the localities of the principal 
spots associated with the traditions of the Arunta natives. 
It will be understood that these maps are not intended to 
indicate our present knowledge of the geographical features 
of Central Australia, ail except the more important ones 
being purposely omitted. 

We have to thank Mr. W. A. Horn and Dr. E. C. Stirling 
for permission to utilize certain drawings illustrative of native 
rock paintings which were originally made to illustrate Dr. 
Stirling's anthropological report dealing with the Arunta 

Finally, we have to express our deep sense of the obliga- 
tion under which we lie to Dr. E. B. Tylor and Mr. ]. G. 
Frazer. It need hardly be pointed out how much we are 
indebted to their work as indicating to us lines of inquiry, 
but in addition to this we have received from them the most 
cordial personal encouragement and help. They have most 
kindly read through the proofs — indeed to Mr. Frazer we 
are deeply indebted for the final revision of these, and in 
offering them our warmest thanks, we venture to express 
the hope that the work may prove to be worthy of the 
interest which they have taken in it. 

Met-BOUKNE, March, iBg8. 























{concluded) 323 





CUSTOMS {continued) . 4^3 




























Glossary of Native Terms used 645 

Index 661 




1. Outline Map of the Centra] Area, showing the Distribution of 

the Tribes referred to 3 

2. Group of Old Men at a Wurley 13 

3. Members of a Family of Arunta Natives, showing the Wurley, 

Weapons and Implements used in da.ily life 17 

4. Spiear Throwing 18 

5. Spear Throwing rg 

6. Boomerang Throwing 1 1 

7. Arunta Native, side &ce 29 

8. Arunta Native, full face 31 

9. Arunta Native, old man . 33 

10. Arunla Native, to show the friuly nature of the beard 35 

I I. Arunta Native, to show the wavy nature of the hair 39 

12. Group of Warramunga Men, four of the older ones have the 

upper lip bare 41 

13. Young Women, Arunta Tribe, side face 43 

14. Young Women, Arunta Tribe, full face 45 

1 5. Young Woman, Arunta, showing body scars and tooth knocked 

oui 47 

16. Old Woman, Arunta Tribe 49 

17. Young Woman, Warramunga Tribe Sr 

18. Woman carrying Child, Arunta Tribe 53 

19. Diagram of Marriage System in the Dieri Tribe . 109 

20. Wooden Churinga or Sacred Sticks of the Urabunna, Luritcha 

and Arunta Tribes 129 

21. Stone Churinga of the Arunta, Kaitish and Warramunga Tribes 131 

22. Sacred Objects of the Waaga ribe , ,153 



23. Churinga which have just been returned after having been bor- 

rowed. During the performance of ceremonies they are placed 

on the small platform built in the tree 163 

24. Sacred Drawings of the Witchetty Grub Totem on the rocks at 

the Emily Gap i;i 

25. The Great Ilthura where EntJchiunia was performed at the Emily 

Gap 173 

z6. Rubbing the Stomach with the Churinga Uchaqua during the 
Intichiuma Ceremony of the Witchetty Grub- Totem. The 

men are sitting in one of the Ilthura 174 

37. Rubbing the Stomach with the Churinga Unchima during the 
Intichiuma Ceremony of the Witchetty Grub Totem. The 
menaresitting in one of theillthura 175 

28. The Alatunja returning to Camp after the Intichiuma ceremony 

of the Witchetty Grub Totem at the Emily Gap 177 

29. Group of Men of the Emu Totem sitting round the Churinga 

Ilpintira, which is drawn on the ground 181 

30. Preparing Decorations for the performance of the Intichiuma 

Ceremony of the Emu Totem 182 

31. Performance of the Intichiuma Ceremony of the Unjiamba 

Totem. Pouring blood on to the stone 1S4 

32. Intichiuma Ceremony of Water Totem 190 

33. Undiara, where the Intichiuma Ceremony of the Kangaroo 

Totem is performed 195 

34. First Ceremony of Initiation, painting and throwing the boys up 

in the air zi6 

35. First Ceremony of Initiation, painting and throwing the boys up 

36. Diagram of the Apulia Ground 319 

37. Ceremony of the Kangaroo Totem, men lying down on the top 

of the Wurtja 224 

38. Ceremony of Kangaroo Totem, the two men standing up wear 

small Waningas ; the man lying down is supposed to bea dog; 225 

39. The Wurtja embracing the W'aninga, which has been used 

during a Ceremony of the Rat Totem 233 

40. The Wurtja crouching behind his brake ; on his back is a design 

of the Snake Totem ; the Apulia lines are seen with the Group 
of Men in front of their brake ; the man who will perform the 
operation of circumcision is on the left and his a 
the right side 



41. Women stripping the poles, just before the Ceremony of . 

Lanna in the Northern Arunta Tribe 245 

42. The operator and his assistant standing in position during the 

performance of Lartna. The operator holds the small slone 
knife in his right hand 247 

43. Immediately before the Ceremony of Ariltha ; the two Arakurta 

embracing the Nurtunja, which has been used during a cere- 
mony of the Bandicoot Totem 254 

44. Immediately after the Ceremony of Ariliha ; the two Ertwakurka 

sitting on the Shields 25; 

45. Old Men in charge of the Store of Churinga belonging to the 

Purula and Kumara, during the Engwura Ceremony. The 
Churinga are stored on a platform called Thanunda .... 273 

46. Plan of the Engwura Ground' 276 

47. Iruntarinia Ceremony of the Unjiamba Totem ; the long cord 

represents the path of the Wild Cat men as they travelled along 

in the Alcheringa 287 

iS. Ceremony of the Wild Cat Totem, showing the laying on of 

hands to cause the performers to stop 289 

49. Group of Men examining the Churinga 291 

50. Ceremony of the Ulpmerka of Quiumpa 292 

51. Ceremony of the Plum Tree Totem : the performer is supposed 

to be eating plums 293 

12. Iruntarinia Ceremony of the Eagle-Hawk Totem 295 

53. Ceremony of Unjiamba Toiem of Ooraminna 297 

54. Ceremony of the Wild Cat Totem of Arapera, to illustrate one 

form of Nurtunja 299 

55. Ceremony of the Ulpmerkaof the Plum Tree Totem of Quiumpa, 

to illustrate one form of Nurtunja 301 

56. Ceremony of the large Lizard Totem : the two undecorated 

men represent Thippa - thippa Men who changed into 
Birds 305 

57. Ceremony of the Water Totem, showing how the Waninga is 

carried 307 

58. Ceremony of the Ulpmerka of the Grass Seed Totem, to illustrate 

one form of Nurtunja 311 

59. Ceremony of the Ulpmerka of the Plum Tree Totem of Quiumpa. 

The man sitting down wears a special form of Nurtunja on his 
head 3"4 

60. Ceremony of the Fish Totem of Uratinga on the Finke River . 317 



6i. Ceremony of the Irriakura Totem of Umbanjun, the decoiaied 

feathers on the head represent the flowering Irriakura . , . 319 

<z. Ceremony of the Irriakura Totem of Oknirchumpatana. The 
peiformer sits in front of a series of tufts of feathers fixed in 
the ground 32 1 

63. Ceremonyof an Ant Totem of Alkniwukulla, to illustrate one form 

of Nurtunja ; the lines of down represent toots of wattle trees, 
amongst which the women dig for ants ; the performers repre- 
sent women 325 

64. Iruntarinia Ceremony of the Unjiamba Totem, to illustrate one 

form of Nurtunja; the small cross pieces represent pointing Slicks 327 

65. Ceremony representing two Oruncha of Kulparra 330 

€6. Ceremony of the Oruncha of Chauritchi 332 

67. An Oruncha Ceremony : the performers coming on to the ground 333 

68. Iruntarinia Ceremony of the Unjiamba Totem of Apera-na-Un- 

kumna, to illustrate one form of Nurtunja 335 

69. The Erathipa Stone, showing the hole through which the Spirit 

Children emerge, and the charcoal line painted above it . . . 337 

70. Ceremony of the Opossum Totem of Arimurla, to illustrate one 

form of Nurtunja 339 

71. Ceremony of the Oprossum Totem of Arimurla, to illustrate one 

form of Nurtunja 340 

72. Preparing for a Ceremony of the Frt^ Totem of Imanda . . . 342 

73. Ceremony of the En.u Totem; the head-dress represents the 

neck and head of an Emu 343 

74. Ceremony of the Frog Totem of Imanda 345 

75. Ceremony of the Frog Totem of Imanda 346 

76. The Women throwing fire over the Illpongwurra 349 

77. The Illpongwurra lying down with their heads on the Parra, 

behind which are stacked the bushes which they carry when 
returning to camp 353 

78. Dance of the Illpongwurra round the performers of a ceremony ; 

this running round is called Wahkutnima 355 

79. Preparing the fire for the Illpongwurra 357 

8a Ingwuminga Inkinja Ceremony of the Emu Totem of Imanda . 359 

81. Ceremony of the Kangaroo Totem of Undiara, to illustrate one 

form of Nurtunja 361 

82. Ceremony of the Kangaroo Totem of Undiara, to illustrate one 

form of Nurtunja 363 

23. Ambilyerikirra Ceremony 367 



84. The erection of the Sacred Pole, or Kauaua ; the man who has 

climbed up is arranging the Churinga 371 

85. The lUpongwurra on the fire 373 

86. Ceremony of the Frog Totem of Imanda 375 

87. Totemic Designs painted on the backs of the Illpongwurra . . 377 

88. The llipongwurra gathered round the Kauaua 379 

89. Ceremony of releasing from the Ban of Silence ; touching the 

mouths of the younger men with a sacred abject 383 

9a Ceremony of releasing from the Ban of Silence ; touching the 
mouth of the younger man with a fragment of the food pre- 
sented by him to the older man 385 

91. Rocks at Quiumpa which arose to mark the spot where the lli- 

pongwurra were burnt during the Engwura 391 

92. The Nanja rock of Kukaitcha, the leader of the Utpmerka men 

of the Plum Tree Totem at Quiurnpa 393 

93. Emily Gap from the South side 426 

94. Emily Gap from the North side 427 

9;. Ceremony of the White Bat Totem concerned with Cannibalism 474 

96. Emu Feather Shoes worn by the Kurdaitcha 479 

97. Kurdaitcha creeping up to his enemy 482 

98. Illapurinja Woman 487 

99. Tree Burial in the Warramunga Tribe 499 

100. Widow smeared with Kaolin and wearing the Chimurilia . . . 501 
loi. Chimurilia, tur string bands and feathers worn by the Widow 

during the Urpmilchima Ceremony at the Grave 505 

102. Iruntarinia Ceremony of the Unjiamba (Hakea Tree) Totem 

of Urthipila, showing the Umbalinyara Cross 518 

103. Iruntarinia Ceremony concerned with two Oruncha of Atnur- 

tinya Kinya 520 

104. Medicine Man showing the hole made in his tongue 524 

105. Medicine Man made by the Oruncha, with the Oruncha Marilla, 

or design of the Oruncha 527 

106. Variousformsof Implcmentsof Magicused amongst the Central 

Tribes 535 

107. Drawing intended to represent a Woman lying on her back . 549 

108. Ceremony of the Sun Totem of Ilparlinja 563 

109. Clothing and Personal Ornaments 569 

no. Personal Ornaments 571 

iioA. Various forms of Spear-heads $7^ 

fir. Spear-throwers 579 



113. Construction of the Tassel or Fringe of the Nulliga .... 

113. Attachment of theTassel to the Nulliga 

1 14. Fire making, by means of rubbing the edge of a Spear.thro» 

on a Shield 

115. Shields 585 

If6. Shields 

1 17- Stone Axes and Knives 

1 18. Boomerangs 

ii8.\. Ornamentation of large Boomerangs 

ii8n. Fighting Clubs 603 

I ig. Various Implements 605 

120. Pitchis 609 

121. Pitchis ^. 

133. Structure of the String Bag 612 

123. Arunta Native using Spindle for making Fur-string 613 

134. Native Rock Paintings To/ncefiagc 615 

i3j. Arunta Natives, Corrobboree Decorations 619 

126. Arunta Natives, Corrobboree Decorations 619 

127. Arunta Natives, decorated for the Erkita Corrobboree .... 620 

128. Decorations used during a Rain Dance or Corrobboree, Arunta 

Tribe 621 

129. Old Man instructing Boys how to perform a Corrobboree . . 622 

130. Preparing for the Erkita Corrobboree, Arunta Tribe 623 

131. Churingia Ilkinia or Sacred Rock Drawing of a Group of the 

Honey Ant Totem in the Warramunga Tribe . To/ace page 631 
133. Churinga Ilkinia of the Udnirringita Totem drawn on the 

Rocks at the Emily Gorge To face page 632 

133. Churinga Ilkinia of the Ulpmerka of the Plum Tree Tolem, 

drawn on the Rocks at Quiumpa To face page 632 


1. Outline Map of the Central Area of Australia ■ showing the 

tracks followed by the four groups of Achilpa and the spots 

at which they camped Tofa^epage 387 

2. Outline Map of the Central Area of Australia in the region of 

the MacDonnell Range, showing the tracks followed by the 
various groups of Udnirringita and of Emu men, together 
with the spots at which they camped, and other localities 
concerned with traditions To face page 423 





Nature of the counity occupied by the natives — Distribution of the natives in 
local groups — Names given to the local groups — Local Toteraic groups — The 
AUtunja or head man of each group and his powers — The position of Alatunja 
a hereditary one— Strong influence of cmlom — Possibility of introduclion of 
changes in regard to custom^Coundls of old men — Medicine men— Life in 
camp — Hunting customs — Food and method of cooking — Tracking powers^ 
Counting and reckoning of time — General account of the more common 
weapons and implements — Clothing — Fighting — Local Totemic groups — 
Variation in customs amongst different Australian tribes— Personal appear- 
ance of the natives — Cicatrices — Measurements of the body — Moral character — 
Infanticide — Twins — Dread of evil magic. 

The native tribes with which we are dealing occupy an 
area in the centre of the Australian continent which, roughly 
speaking, is not less than 700 miles in length from north to 
south, and stretches out east and west of the transcontinental 
telegraph line, covering an unknown extent of country in 
either direction. The nature of the country varies much in 
different parts of this large area ; at Lake Eyre, in the south, 
it is actually below sea-le vel. As we travel northwards for 
between 300 and 400 miles, the land gradually rises until it 
reaches an elevation of 2,000 feet ; and to this southern part of 
the country the name of the Lower Steppes may appro- 
priately be given. Northwards from this lies an elevated 
plateau forming the Higher Steppes, the southern limit of 
which is roughly outlined by the James and Macdonnell 



ranges, which run across from east to west for a distance of 
400 miles. 

The rivers which rise in the Higher Steppes find their way 
to the south, passing through deep gaps in the mountain 
ranges and then meandering slowly across the Lower Steppes 
until they dwindle away and are lost amongst the southern 
sandy flats, or perhaps reach the great depressed area centreing 
in the salt bed of Lake Eyre. 

Away to the south and west of this steppe land lies a vast 
area of true desert region, crossed by no river courses, but 
with mile after mile of monotonous sand-hills covered with 
porcupine grass, or with long stretches of country where thick 
belts of almost impenetrable mulga scrub stretch across. 

We may first of.all briefly outline, as follows, the nature of 
the country occupied by the tribes with which we are dealing. 
At th^ present day the transcontinental railway line, after 
running along close by the southern edge of Lake Eyre, lands 
the traveller at a small township called Oodnadatta, which is 
the present northern terminus of the line, and lies about 
680 piles to the north of Adelaide. Beyond this transit is by 
horse or camel ; and right across the centre of the continent 
runs a track following closely the course of the single wire 
which serves to maintain, as yet, the only telegraphic com- 
munication between Australia and Europe. From Oodnadatta 
to Charlotte Waters stretches a long succession of gibber 1 
plains, where, mile after mile, the ground is covered with 
brown and purple stones, often set close together as if thej- 
formed a tesselated pavement stretching away to the horizon. 
They are formed by the disintegration of a thin stratum of 
rock, called the Desert Sandstone, which forms the horizontal 
capping of low terraced hills, from which every here and there 
a dry watercourse, fringed with a thin belt of mulga-trees, 
comes down on to the plain across which it meanders for 
a few miles and then dies away. 

The only streams of any importance in this part of the 
country are the Alberga, Stevenson, and Hamilton, which run 

' Cibbei is an abonginal word meaning a. lock oi stone. The word is probably 
derived originally from a Queensland diaieei, but is now used by white men in 
many parts. Gibber-gunyaJi is an aboriginal cave dwelling or rock-shelter. 





across from the west and unite to form the Macumba River, 
which in times of flood empties itself into Lake Eyre. It is 
only very rarely that the rainfall is sufficient to fill the beds of 
these three streams ; as a general rule a local flood occurs in 
one or other of them, but on rare occasions a widely dis- 
tributed rainfall may fill the creeks and also the Finke river, 
which flows south from the Macdonnell range, which lies away 
to the north. When such a flood does occur — and this only 
takes place at long and irregular intervals of time — then the 
ordinary river beds are not deep enough to hold the body 
of water descending from the various ranges in which the 
tributary streams take their rise. Under these conditions the 
flood waters spread far and wide over the low-lying lands 
around the river courses. Down the river beds the water 
sweeps along, bearing with it uprooted trees and great masses 
of ddbris, and carving out for itself new channels. Against 
opposing obstacles the flood wrack is piled up in heaps — in fact, 
for months afterwards debris amongst the branches of trees 
growing in and about the watercourses indicates the height 
reached by the flood. What has been for often many months 
dry and parched-up land is suddenly transformed into a vast 
sheet of water. It is only however a matter of a very short 
time ; the rainfall ceases and rapidly the water sinks. For a 
few days the creeks will run, but soon the surface flow ceases 
and only the scattered deeper holes retain the water. The 
sun once more shines hotly, and in the damp ground seeds 
which have lain dormant for months germinate, and, as if by 
magic, the once arid land becomes covered with luxuriant 
herbage. Birds, frogs, lizards and insects of all kinds can be 
seen and heard where before everything was parched and 
silent Plants and animals alike make the most of the brief 
time in which they can grow and reproduce, and with them it 
is simply a case of a keen struggle, not so much against living 
enemies, as against their physical environment, i If a plant can, 
for example, before all the surface moisture is exhausted, grcnv 
to such a size that its roots can penetrate to a considerable 
distance below the surfiice to where the sandy soil remains 
cool, then it has a chance of surviving ; if not, it must perish. 
In just the same way amongst animals, those which can grow 



rapidly, and so can, as in the case of the frogs, reach a stage 
at which they are able to burrow while the banks of the 
waterhole in which they hve are damp, will survive. 

It is difficult to realise without having seen it the contrast 
between the Steppe lands of Australia in dry and rainy 
seasons. In the former the scene is one of desolation; the 
sun shines down hotly on stony plains or yellow sandy 
ground, on which grow wiry shrule and small tussocks of 
grass, not closely set together, as in moister country, but 
separated from one another, so that in any patch of ground 
the number of individual plants can be counted. The sharp, 
thin shadows of the wiry scrub fall on the yellow ground, 
which shows no sign of animal life except for the little ant- 
hills, thousands of whose occupants are engaged in rushing 
about in apparently hopeless confusion, or piling leaves or 
seeds in regular order around the entrance to their burrows. 
A " desert oak "' or an acacia-tree may now and then afford 
a scanty shade, but for weeks together no clouds hide the 
brightness of the sun by day or of the stars by night. 

Amongst the ranges which rise from the Higher Steppes 
the scenery is of a very different nature. Here, wild and 
rugged quartzite ranges, from which al intervals rise great 
rounded bluffs or sharply outlined peaks, reaching in some 
instances a height of 5,000 feet, run roughly parallel to one 
another, east and west, for between 300 and 400 miles. These 
ridges are separated from one another by valleys, varying in 
width from 200 or 300 yards to twenty miles, where the soil is 
hard and yellow and the scrub which thinly covers it is just 
like that of the Lower Steppes. The river courses run 
approximately north and south, and, as the watershed lies 
to the north of the main ranges, they have to cut at right 
angles across the latter. This they do in gorges, which are 
often deep and narrow. Some of them, except at flood times, 
are dry and afford the only means of traversing tjie ranges ; 
others are constantly filled with water which, sheltered from 
the heat of the sun, remains in the dark waterholes when 

' The tree to which this niost inappropriate name has been given is Cataarina 
Dteaistuana : il may reach a height of thlrtj' or forty feet and is often found 
growii^, as its popolar name implies, in sterile, desert country. 



elsewhere the watercourses are quite dry. The scenery 
amongst the ranges is by no means devoid of beauty. The 
rugged red rocks, with here and there patches of pines or 
cycads, or stray gum-trees with pure white trunks, stand out 
sharply against the clear sky. In the gorges the rocks rise 
abruptly from the sides of the waterpools, leaving often only a 
thin strip of blue sky visible overtiead. In some cases the 
goi^e will run for half a mile across the range like a zigzag 
cleft not more than ten or twelve feet wide. 

In addition to the Steppe lands there lies away to the south 
and west the true desert country where there are no water- 
courses other than the very insignificant ones which run for at 
most a mile or two across the sandy flats which surround the 
base of isolated hills such as Mount Olga or Ayers Rock. In 
this region the only water is to be found in rock holes on the 
bare hills which every now and then rise out above the sand- 
hills and the mulga-covered flats. Nothing could be more 
dreary than this country ; there is simply a long succession of 
sand-hills covered with tussocks of porcupine grass, the leaves 
of which resemble knitting-needles radiating from a huge pin- 
cushion, or, where the sand-hills die down, there is a flat stretch 
of hard plain country, with sometimes belts of desert oaks, 
or, more often, dreary mulga scrub. In this desert country 
there is not much game ; small rataand lizards can be found, and 
these the native catches by setting fire tcTthe porcupine grass 
and so driving them from one tussock to another ; but he must 
often find it no easy matter to secure food enough to live 
upon. In times of drought, which very frequently occur, the 
life of these sand-hill blacks must be a hard one. Every now 
and then there are found, right in the heart of the sand-hills, 
small patches of limestone, in each of which is a deep pit- 
like excavation, at the bottom of which there may or may 
not be a little pool of water, though such " native wells," 
as they are called, are of rare occurrence and are the remnants 
of old mound springs. More likely than not, the little water 
which one does contain is foul with the decaying carcase of a 
dingo which has ventured down for a drink and has been too 
weak to clamber out again. The most characteristic feature of 
the desert country, next to the sand-hills, are the remains of 



what have once been lakes, but are now simply level plains of 
glistening white salt, hemmed in with low hills covered with 
dreary scrub. Around these there is no sign of life, and the 
most perfect silence reigns. 

Such is the general nature of the great area of Steppe and 
desert land inhabited by the Central Australian natives. In 
times of long-continued drought, when food and water • are 
both scarce, he has to suffer privation ; but under ordinary 
circumstances, except in the desert country, where it can 
never be very pleasant, his life is by no means a miserable or 
a very hard one. Kangaroo, rock-wallabies, emus, and other 
forms of game are not scarce, and often fall a prey to his 
spear and boomerang, while smaller animals, such as rats 
and lizards, are constantly caught without any difficulty by 
the women, who also secure large quantities of grass seeds 
and tubers, and, when they are in season, fruits, such as that 
of the quandong or native plum. 

Each of the various tribes speaks a distinct dialect, and 
r^ards itself as the possessor of the country in which it 
lives. In the more southern parts, where they have been 
long in contact with the white man, not only have their 
numbers diminished rapidly, but the natives who still remain 
are but poor representatives of their race, having lost all or 
neariy all of their old customs and traditions. With the 
spread of the white man it can only be a matter of compara- 
tively a few years before the same fate will befall the remain- 
ing tribes, which are as yet fortunately too far removed from 
white settlements of any size to have become degraded. 
However kindly disposed the white settler may be, his 
advent at once and of necessity introduces a disturbing 
element into the environment of the native, and from that 
moment defeneration sets in, no matter how friendly may 
be the relations between the Aborigine and the new-comers. 
The chance of securing cast-off clothing, food, tobacco, and 
perhaps also knives and tomahawks, in return for services 

' ITie native fiom long practice is able to secure water from such sources as tree 
loou in spots where an inexperienced white man would perish from ihirsl. An in- 
teresting account of this matter has been given by Mr. T. A. Magarey, in a paper 
entitled " Aboriginal Water Quest," published in the A'eforl e/ the Aiist. Jis. Adv 
&>.. vol. vL, 1895, p. 647. 



rendered to the settler, at once attracts the native into 
the vicinity of any settlement however small. The young 
men, under the new influence, become freed from the 
wholesome restraint of the older men, who are all-power- 
ful in the normal condition of the tribe. The strict moral 
code, which is certainly enforced in their natural state, is set 
on one side, and nothing is adopted in place of it. The old 
men see with sorrow that the younger ones do not care for 
the time-honoured traditions of their fathers, and refuse to 
hand them on to successors who, according to their ideas, 
are not worthy to be trusted with them ; vice, disease, and 
difficulty in securing the natural food, which is driven away 
by the settlers, rapidly diminish their numbers, and when the 
remnant of the tribe is gathered into some mission station, 
under conditions as far removed as they can well be from 
their natural ones, it is too late to learn anything of the 
customs which once governed tribal life. 

-Fortunately from this point of view the interior of the con- 
tinent is not easily accessible, or rather its climate is too dry 
and the water supply too meagre and untrustworthy, to admit 
as yet of rapid settlement, and therefore the natives, in many 
(larts, are practically still left to wander over the land which 
the white man does not venture to inhabit, and amongst them 
may still be found tribes holding firmly to the beliefs and 
customs of their ancestors. 

If now we take the Arunta tribe as an example, we find 
that the natives are distributed in a large number of small 
local groups, each of u'hich occupies, and is supposed to 
possess, a given area of country, the boundaries of which are 
well known to the natives. In speaking of themselves, the 
natives will refer to these local groups by the name of the 
locality which each of them inhabits. Thus, for example, 
the natives living at Idracowra, as the white men call it, will 
he called ertwa Iturkawura opmira, which means men of the 

Iturkawura camp ; those living at Henbury on the Finke 
will be called ertwa Waingakama opmira, which means men 
of the Waingakama (Henbury) camp. Often also a number 
of separate groups occupying a larger district will be spoken 
of collectively by one name, as, for example, the groups living 

along the Finke River are often spoken of as Larapinta men. 



from the native name of the river. In axldition to this the 
natives speak of different divisions of the tribe according to 
the direction of the country which they occupy. Thus the 
east side is called Iknura ambianya, the west side Aldorla 
ambianya, the south-west Antikera ambianya, the north side 
Yirira ambianya, the south-east side Urlewa ambianya. 
Ertwa iknura ambianya is appUed to men living on the east, 
and so on. 

Still further examination of each local group reveals the 
fact that it is composed largely, but not entirely, of indi- 
viduals who describe themselves by the name of some one 
animal or plant. Thus there will be one area which belongs 
to a group of men who call themseives kangaroo men, another 
belonging to emu men, another to Hakea flower men, and so 
on, almost every animal and plant which is found in the 
country having its representative amongst the human in- 
habitants. The area of country which is occupied by each 
of these, which will be spoken of as local Totemic groups, 
^-aries to a considerable extent, but is never very lai^e, the 
most extensive one with which we are acquainted being that 
of the witchetty grub people of the Alice Springs district 
This group at the present time is represented by exactly 
forty individuals (men, women, and children), and the area 
of which they are rec(^nised as the proprietors extends over 
about iOO square miles. In contrast to this, one particular 
group of " plum-tree " people is only, at the present day, repre- 
sented by one solitary individual, and he is the proprietor of 
only a few square miles. 

With these local groups we shall subsequently deal in 
detail, all that need be added here in regard to them is that 
groups of the same designation are found in many parts of 
the district occupied by the tribe. For example, there are 
various local groups of kangaroo people, and each one of 
these groups has its head man or, as the natives themselves 
call him, its Alatunja.^ However small in numbers a local 
group may be it always has its Alatunja. 

' la diRerent parls of the Iribe he is known by diffeient naincs : in the north he 
a lulled Alaiunjo, in the west Chichurtit, at Hennannsburg on the Finke River 
Inkata or Inkatinja, and in the north-east Chantchwal 



Within the narrow limits of his own group the local head 
man or Alatunja takes the lead ; outside of his group no head 
man has of necessity any special power, If he has any gener- 
ally-recognised authority, as some of them undoubtedly have, 
this is due to the fact that he is either the head of a numeri- 
cally important group or is himself famous for his skill in 
hunting or fighting, or for his knowledge of the ancient 
traditions and customs of the tribe. Old age does not by 
itself confer distinction, but only when combined with^f^edal 
a bili ty. There is no such thing as a chief of the tribe, nor 
indeed is there any individual to whom the term chief can be 

The authority which is wielded by an Alatunja is of a 
somewhat vague nature. He has no definite power over the 
persons of the individuals who are members of his group. 
He it is who calls tc^ether the elder men, who always con- 
sult concerning any important business, such as the holding 
of sacred ceremonies or the punishment of individuals who 
have broken tribal custom, and his opinion carries an amount 
of weight which depends upon his reputation. He is not of 
necessity recognised as the most important member of the 
council whose judgment must be followed, though, if he be 
old and distinguished, then he will have great influence. 
Perhaps the best way of expressing the matter is to say that 
the Alatunja has, ex-offido, a position which, if he be a man 
of personal ability, but only in that case, enables him to 
wield considerable power not only over the members of his 
own group, but over those of neighbouring groups whose 
head men are inferior in personal ability to himself 

The Alatunja is i^ot chosen for the position because of his 
, ability ; the post is one which, within certain limits, is here- 
ditary, passing from father to son, always provided that the 
man is of the proper designation — that is, for example, in a 
kangaroo group the Alatunja must of necessity be a kangaroo 
man. To take the Alice Springs group as an example, the 
holder of the oflice must be a witchetty grub man, and he 
must also be old enough to be considered capable of taking 
the lead in certain ceremonies, and must of necessity be a 
fully initiated man. The present Alatunja inherited the post 



from his father, who had previously inherited it from his 
father. The present holder has no son. who is yet old enough 
to be an Alatunja, so that if he were to die within the course of 
the next two or three years his brother would hold the position, 
which would, however, on the death of this brother, revert to 
the present holder's son. It of course occasionally happens 
that the Alatunja has no son to succeed him, in which case he 
will before dying nominate the individual whom he desires to 
succeed him, who will always be either a brother or a brother's 
son. The Alatunjaship always descends in the male line, and 
we are not aware of anything which can be regarded as the 
precise equivalent of this position in other Australian tribes, 
a fact which is to be associated with the strong development 
of the local groups in this part of the continent. 

The most important function of the Alatunja is to take 
chaise of what we may call the sacred store-house, ^vhich has 
usually the form of a cleft in some rocky range, or a special 
hole in the ground, in which, concealed from view, are kept 
the sacred objects of the group. Near to this store-house, 
which is called an Erhtatulunga, no woman, child, or uninitiated 
man dares venture on pain of death. 

At intervals of time, and when determined upon by the 
Alatunja, the members of the group perform a special ceremony, 
called Intickiutna, which will be described later on in detail, 
and the object of which is to increase the supply of the animal 
or plant bearing the name of the particular group which per- 
forms the ceremony. Each group has an Intichiuma of its 
own, which can only be taken part in by initiated men bearing 
the group name. In the performance of this ceremony the 
Alatunja takes the leading part ; he it is who decides when it 
is to be performed, and during the celebration the proceedings 
are carried out under his direction, though he has, while con- 
ducting them, to follow out strictly the customs of his 

As amongst all savage tribes the Australian native is bound 
hand and foot by custom. What his fathers did before him 
that he must do. If during the performance of a ceremony 
his ancestors painted a white line across the forehead, that 
line he must paint. Any infringement of custom, within 



certain limitations, is visited with sure and often severe punish- 
ment. At the same time, rigidly conservative as the native 
is, it is yet possible for changes to be introduced. We have 
already pointed out that there are certain men who are 
especially respected for their ability, and, after watching large 
numbers of the tribe, at a time when they were assembled 
together for months to perform certain of their most sacred 
ceremonies, we have come to the conclusion that at a time 
such as this, when the older and more powerful men from 
various groups are met together, and when day by day and 
night by night around their camp fires they discuss matters of 
tribal interest, it is quite possible for changes of custom to be 
introduced. At the present moment, for example, an im- 
portant change in tribal oi^anisation is gradually spreading 
through the tribe from north to south. Every now and then 
a man arises of superior ability to his fellows. When large 
numbers of the tribe are gathered together — at least it was so 
on the special occasion to which we allude — one or two of the 
older men are at once seen to wield a special influence over 
the others. Everything, as we have before said, does not 
depend upon age. At this gathering, for example, some of 
the oldest men were of no account ; but, on the other hand, 
others not so old as they were, but more learned in ancient 
lore or more skilled in matters of magic, were looked up to by 
the others, and they it was who settled everything. It must, 
however, be understood that wc have no definite proof to 
bring forward of the actual introduction by this means of any 
fundamental change of custom. The only thing that we can 
say is that, after carefully watching the natives during the 
performance of their ceremonies and endeavouring as best we 
could to enter into their feelings, to think as they did, and to 
become for the time being one of themselves, we came to the 
conclusion that if one or two of the most powerful men settled 
upon the advisability of introducing some change, even an 
important one, it would be quite possible for this to be agreed 
upon and carried out. That changes have been introduced, 
in fact, are still being introduced, is a matter of certainty ; the 
difficulty to be explained is, how in face of the rigid con- 
servatism of the native, which may be said to be one of his 




leading features, such changes can possibly even be mooted. 
The only possible chance is by means of the old men, and, in 
the case of the Aninta people, amongst whom the local feeling 
is very strong, they have opportunities of a special nature. 
Without belonging to the same group, men who inhabit 
localities close to one another are more closely associated than 
men living at a distance from one another, and, as a matter of 
fact, this local bond is strongly marked — indeed so marked 
was it during the performance of their sacred ceremonies that 
we constantly found it necessary to use the term " local re- 
lationship." Groups which are contiguous locally are con- 
stantly meeting to perform ceremonies ; and among the 
Alatunjas who thus come together and direct proceedings 
there is perfectly sure, every now and again, to be one who 
stands pre-eminent by reason of superior ability, and to him, 
especially on an occasion such as this, great respect is always 
paid. It w^ould be by no means impossible for him to pro- 
pose to the other older men the introduction of a change, 
which, after discussing it, the Alatunjas of the local groups 
gathered together might come to the conclusion was a good 
one, and, if they did so, then it would be adopted in that 
district. After a time a still larger meeting of the tribe, with 
head men from a still wider area — a meeting such as the 
Engwura, which is descril}ed in the following pages — might 
be held. At this the change locally introduced would, with- 
out fail, be discussed. The man who first started it would 
certainly have the support of his local friends, provided they 
had in the first instance agreed upon the advisability of its 
introduction, and not only this, but the chances are that he 
would have the support of the head men of other local groups 
of the same designation as his own. Everything would, in 
fact, depend upon the status of the original proposer of the 
change ; but, granted the existence of a man with sufficient 
ability to think out the details of any change, then, owing 
partly to the strong development of the local feeling, and 
partly to the feeling of kinship between groups of the same 
designation, wherever their local habitation may be, it seems 
quite possible that the markedly conservative tendency of the 
natives in regard to customs handed down to them from their 



ancestors may every now and then be overcome, and some 
change, even a radical one, be introduced. The traditions of 
the tribe indicate, it may be noticed, their recognition of the 
fact that customs have varied from time to time. They have, 
for example, traditions dealing with supposed ancestors, some 
of whom introduced, and others of whom changed, the method 
of initiation. Tradition also indicates ancestors belonging to 
particular local groups who changed an older into the present 
marriage system, and these traditions all deal with special 
powerful individuals by whom the changes were introduced. 
It has been stated by writers such as Mr. Curr " that the power 
which enforces custom in our tribes is for the most part an 
impersonal one."^ Undoubtedly public opinion and the feel- 
ing that any violation of tribal custom will bring down upon 
the guilty person the ridicule and opprobrium of his fellows 
is a strong, indeed a very strong, influence ; but at the same 
time there is in the tribes with which we are personally ac- 
quainted something beyond this. Should any man break 
through the strict marriage laws, it is not only an " impersonal , 
power " which he has to deal with. The head men of the 
group or groups concerned consult together with the elder 
men, and, if the offender, after long consultation, be adjudged 
guilty and the determination be arrived at that he is to be 
put to death — a by no means purely hypothetical case — then 
the same elder men make arrangements to carry the sentence 
out, and a party, which is called an " inuija" is organised for 
the purpose. The offending native is perfectly well aware that 
he will be dealt with by something much more real than an 
"impersonal power."* 

In addition to the Alatunja, there are two other classes of 
men who are regarded as of especial importance ; these are 
the so-called "medicine men," and in the second place the 
men who are supposed to have a special power of communi- 
cating with the Iruntarinia or spirits associated with the 
tribe. Needless to say there are grades of skill recc^nised 

' TTie Auzlraliait Race, voL L p. ja. 

' This subject has alre^y been dealt with by Mr. Howiit in his paper on the 
organisation of the Australian tribes, TroHS. R. S. Victoria, [SS9, p. I08, and 
our eipericnce undoubtedly corroborates his opinion. 



amongst the members of these two classes, in much the same 
way as we recognise differences of ability amongst members 
of the medical profession. In subsequent chapters we shall 
deal in detail with these three special types; meanwhile in 
this general risum^ it is sufficient to note that they have 
a definite standing and are regarded as, in certain ways, 
superior to the other men of the tribe. It may, however, be 
pointed out that, while every group has its Alatunja, there is 
no necessity for each to have either a medicine or an Jrun- 
tarinia man, and that in regard to the position of the latter 
there is no such thing as hereditary succession. 

Turning again to the group, we find that the members of 
this wander, perhaps in small parties of one or two families, 
often, for example, two or more brothers with their wives and 
children, over the land which they own, camping at favourite 
spots where the presence of waterholes, with their accompani- 
ment of vegetable and animal food, enables them to supply 
their wants.' 

In their ordinary condition the natives are almost completely 
naked, which is all the more strange as kangaroo and wallaby 
are not by any means scarce, and one would think that their 
fur would be of no little use and comfort in the winter time, 
when, under the perfectly clear sky, which often remains 
cloudless for weeks together, the radiation is so great that at 
' I[ has been staled that when out in the biLsh Ihc natives communicate with 
one another by means of smoke signals, and in a remarkable paper by Mr. T. A, 
Mogarey, published in the Report of thi Ausi. Ass. Ado. Set',, vol. v., 1893, p. 498, 
a long account is given of various smoke signal codes which are stated by the author 
to be in use amongst the tribes with whom we have come in contact. Mr, Magarey 
slates in regard lo this matter that " the greatest obstacle in the way of obtaining 
the information required is the proud racial reticence of the natives themselves." 
It may be that we have not succeeded in overcoming this, but we venture to say 
that Mr. Magarey is entirely wrong in the slfl.temenis made concerning the Central 
natives. We do not mean to say that they never make smoke signals, but that 
they are always of a very simple nature, that on each occasion when made they 
are only understood when they have been agreed upon before for use on the special 
occasion, and that in these tribes, amongst whom we have had special o])portunities 
for acquiring information, there is no set code of any kind. What Mr. Roth says 
in regard to the native tribes of Central Queensland is exactly applicable to the 
Central Australian tribes generally, and (hat is, " II would appear that no special 
information can be conveyed by these smoke Mgnals beyond the actual presence 
there of the person 01 persons making them." After careful investigation we can 
fully corroborate Mr. Koth so far as the Arunta tribe is concerned. 



night-time the temperature falls several degrees below freezing 
point. The idea of making any kind of clothing as a protec- 
tion against cold does not appear to have entered the native 
mind, though he is keen enough upon securing the Govern- 
ment blanket when he can get one, or, in fact, any stray 
cast-off clothing of the white man. The latter is however t 
worn as much from motives of vanity as from a desire for ] 
warmth ; a lubra with nothing on except an ancient straw 
hat and an old pair of boots is perfectly happy. The very 

kindness of the white man who supplies him, in outlying 
parts, with stray bits of clothing is by no means conducive to 
the longevity of the native. If you give a black fellow, say a 
woollen shirt, he will perhaps wear it for a day or two, after 
that his wife will be adorned with it, and then, in return for 
perhaps a little food, it will be passed on to a friend. The 
natural result is that, no sooner do the natives come into 
contact with white men, than phthisis and other diseases soon 
make their appearance, and, after a comparatively short time, 



all that can be done is to gather the few remnants of the 
tribe into some mission station where the path to final 
extinction may be made as pleasant as possible. 

If, now, the reader can imagine himself transported to the 
side of some waterhole in the centre of Australia, he would 
probably find amongst the scrub and gum-trees surrounding 
it a small camp of natives. Each family, consisting of a man 
and one or more wives and children, accompanied always by 
dogs,' occupies a tm'a-tma, which is merely a lean-to of shrubs 
so placed as to shield the occupants from the prevailing wind, 
which, if it be during the winter months, is sure to be from 

the south-east. In front of this, or inside if the weather be 
cold, will be a small fire of twigs, for the black fellow never 
makes a large fire as the white man does. In this respect 
he certainly regards the latter as a strange being, who makes 
a big fire and then finds it so hot that he cannot go anywhere 
near to it. The black fellow's idea is to make a small fire such 
that he can lie coiled round it and, during the night, supply it 

* The dingo is ihe only animal which the neljve has attcmpled lo domesticate. 
At the present time the introduced dog has supjilantcd the dingo, and all over 
Australia mongrels of all imaginable kinds are seen in scores in every native camp, 
as no dog is ever killed. 



with small twigs so that he can keep it alight without making 
it so hot that he must go further away. 

Early in the morning, if it be summer, and not until the 
son be well up if it be winter, the occupants of the camp are 
astir. Time is no object to them, and, if there be no lack 
of food, the men and women all lounge about while the 
children laugh and play. If food be required, then the women 
will go out accompanied by the children and armed with 
sticks and pitckis} and the day will be spent out 

in the bush in search of small burrowing animals such as 
lizards and small marsupials. The men will perhaps set off 
armed with spears, spear- throwers, boomerangs and shields in 
search of larger game such as emus and kangaroos. The 
latter are secured by stalking, when the native gradually 
approaches his prey with perfectly noiseless footsteps. Keep- 
ing a sharp watch oh the animal, he remains absolutely still, if 
it should turn its head, until once more it resumes its feeding. 
Gradually, availing himself of the shelter of any bush or 
large tussock of grass, he approaches near enough to throw 
' Wooden troi^hs used for carrying food and water. 

C 2 



his Spear. The end is fixed into the point of the spear- 
thrower, and, aided by the leverage thus gained, he throws it 
forward with all his strength. Different men vary much in 
their skill in spear-throwing, but it takes an exceptionally 
good man to kill or disable at more than twenty yards. 
Sometimes two or three men will hunt in company, and then, 
while one remains in ambush, the others combine to drive the 
animals as close as possible to him. Euros ^ are more easily 
caught than kangaroos, owing to the fact that they inhabit 
hilly and scrub country, across which they make " pads," by 
the side of which men will lie in ambush while parties of 
women go out and drive the animals towards them. On the 
ranges the rock-wallabies have definite runs, and close by 
one of these a native will sit patiently, waiting hour by hour, 
until some unfortunate beast comes by. 

In some parts the leaves of the pituri plant {Duboisia Hop- 
woodii) are used to stupefy the emu. The plan adopted is to 
make a decoction in some small waterhole at which the animal 
is accustomed to drink. There, hidden by some bush, the 
native lies quietly in wait After drinking the water the bird 
becomes stupefied, and easily falls a prey to the black fellow's 
spear. Sometimes a bush shelter is made, so as to look as 
natural as possible, close by a waterhole, and from behind 
this animals are speared as they come down to drink. It 
must be remembered that during the long dry seasons of 
Central Australia waterholes are few and far between, so that 
in this way the native is aided in his work of killing animals. 
In some parts advantage is taken of the inquisitive nature of 
the emu. A native will carry something which resembles the 
long neck and small head of the bird and will gradually 
approach his prey, stopping every now and then, and moving ■ 
about in the aimless way of the bird itself. The emu, anxious 
to know what the thing really is, will often ivait and watch 
it until the native has the chance of throwing his spear at 
close quarters. Sometimes a deep pit will be dug in a part 
which is known to be a feeding ground of the bird. In the 
bottom of this a short, sharply-pointed spear will be fixed 
upright, and then, on the top, bushes will be spread and earth 
' The euro is a sni&ll kangaroo {Matropus rebiiiliis). 



scattered upon them. The inquisitive bird comes up to in- 
vestigate the matter, and sooner or later ventures on the 
bushes, and, falling through, is transfixed by the spear. 
Smaller birds such as the rock pigeons, which assemble in 
flocks at any waterhole, are caught by throwing the boomerang 
amongst them, and larger birds, such as the eagle-hawk, the 
down of which is much valued for decorating the body during 

the performance of sacred ceremonies, are procured by the 
same weapon. 

It may be said that with certain restrictions' which apply 
partly to groups of individuals and partly to individuals at 
certain times of their lives, everything which is edible is used 
for food.^ So far as cooking is concerned, the method is 
primitive. Many of the vegetables such as the Irriakura (the 
bulb of Cyperus rotundus), may be eaten raw, or they may be 

' Food restrictions are dealt with in chapter xii. 

* A comprehensive list o( animals nnd plants has been already published by 
Dr. Stirlii^, Ht/vrl of Hem Exped. to Central Amt.,^\. iv. p. 5:. 



roasted in hot ashes. Very often large quantities of the pods 
of an acacia will be gathered and laid on the hot ashes, some 
of which are heaped up over them, and then the natives 
simply sit round, and " shell " and eat the seeds as if they 
were peas — in fact they taste rather like raw green peas. 
Perhaps the most standard vegetable diet of the natives in 
this part of the Centre is what is called by the natives in 
the north of the Arunta, Ingwitchika, and by white men 
usually Munyeru. This is the seed of a species of Claytonia. 
The women gather large quantities and winnow the little 
black seeds by pouring them from one pUchi into another so 
that the wind may carry off the loose husks, or else, taking 
some up in their hands, they blow the husks away. When 
freed from the latter, they are placed on one of the usual 
grinding stones and then ground down with a smaller stone 
held in the hand. Water is poured on every now and then, 
and the black, muddy-looking mixture tumbles over the side 
into a receptacle, and is then ready for eating either raw or 
af);er baking in the ashes. Munyeru seems to take the place 
amongst these tribes of the Nardoo (the spore cases of 
Marsilea quadrifolia) which is a staple article of food in the 
Barcoo district and other parts of the interior of Australia. 

In the of animals the larger ones are usually cooked in 
more or less shallow pits in the ground. An opossum is first 
of all disembowelled, the wool js then plucked off with the 
fingers and the body placed on the hot ashes. A rock wallaby 
is treated in much the same way, except that the hair is first 
singed off in the fire and then the skin is scraped with a piece 
of fiint The ashes are heaped up over the body, which, when 
partly cooked, is taken out and an incision made in each 
groin ; the holes fill and refill with fluid, which is greatly 
appreciated and drunk up at once. The animal is then 
divided up, the flint at the end of the spear-thrower being 
used for this purpose. When cooking an Echidna the intes- 
tines are first removed. Then a small hole is dug, the bottom 
is sprinkled with water, and the animal placed in it. The 
back is covered with a layer of moist earth or sand, which is 
removed after about a quarter of an hour, and hot ashes 
substituted, which are removed after a few minutes. The 



skin with the quills is next cut off with a flint, and the body 
is then placed amongst hot ashes till cooked. 

When a euro or kangaroo is killed, the first thing that is 
always done is to dislocate the hind-legs so as to make the 
animal what is called atnuta or limp. A small hole is cut 
with a flint in one side of the abdomen, and after the intes- 
tines have been pulled out, it is closed up with a wooden 
skewer. The intestines are usually cooked by rolling them 
about in hot sand and ashes, any fat which may be present 
being carefully removed, as it is esteemed a great delicacy. 
One of the first things to be done is to extract the tendons 
from the hind limbs. To do this the skin is cut through 
close to the foot with the sharp bit of flint which is attached 
to the end of the spear-thrower. A hitch is next taken round 
■ the tendon with a stick, and then, with one foot against 
the animal's rump, the man pulls until the upper end gives 
way. Then the loose end is held in the teeth, and, when 
tightly stretched, the lower end is cut through with the flint 
and the tendon thus extracted is twisted up and put for safe 
keeping beneath the waist girdle, or in the hair of the head just 
behind the ear. These tendons are of great service to the 
natives in various ways, such as for attaching the barbed 
points on to the ends of the spears, or for splicing spears or 
mending broken spear-throwers. Meanwhile a shallow pit, 
perhaps one or two feet deep, has been dug with sticks, and 
in this a large fire is made. When this bums up, the body 
is usually held in the flames to singe off the fur, after which it 
is scraped with a flint Sometimes this part of the perform- 
ance is omitted. The hind legs are cut off" at the middle 
joint and the tail either divided in the middle or cut off* close 
to the stump. When the fire has burnt down the animal is 
laid in the pit on its back with its legs protruding through the 
hot ashes, which are heaped up over it After about an hour 
it is supposed to be cooked, and is taken off, laid on green 
boughs so as to pre\ent it from coming in contact with the earth, 
and then cut Uf), the hind legs being usually removed first. 
In some parts where the fur is not singed off", the first thing 
that is done after removing the body from the fire is to take 
ofTthe burnt skin. The carver assists himself, during the pro- 



cess of cutting the body up into joints, to such dainty morsels 
as the heart and kidneys, while any juice which accumulates 
in the internal cavities of the body is greedily drunk. 

When cooking an emu the first thing that is done is to 
roughly pluck it ; an incision is then made in the side 
and the intestines withdrawn, and the inside stuffed with 
feathers, the cut being closed by means of a wooden skewer. 
A pit is dug sufficiently large to hold the body and a fire 
lighted in it, over which the body is held and singed so as to 
get rid of the remaining feathers. The legs are cut off at the 
knee joint, and the head brought round under one leg, to 
which it is fastened with a wooden skewer. The ashes are 
now removed from the pit, and a layer of feathers put in ; on 
these the bird is placed resting on its side ; another layer of 
feathers is placed over the bird, and then the hot ashes are 
strewn o\er. When it is supposed to be cooked enough, it is 
taken out, placed on its breast, and an incision is made run- 
ning round both sides so as to separate the back part from the 
under portion of the body. It is then turned on to its back, 
the legs taken off and the meat cut up. 

The tracking powers of the native are well-known, but it 
is difficult to realise the skill which they display unless one 
has seen them at work.^ Not only does the native know the 
track of every beast and bird, but after examining any burrow 
he will at once, from the direction in which the last track 
runs, tell you whether the animal is at home or not. From 
earliest childhood boys and girls alike are trained to take note 
of every track made by every living thing. With the women 
especially it is a frequent amusement to imitate on the sandy 
ground the tracks of various animals, which they make with 
wonderful accuracy with their hands. Not only do they 
know the varied tracks of the latter, but they will distinguish 
those of particular men and women. In this respect the men 
vary greatly, a fact which is well known to, and appreciated 

' Whilst at Hermannsburg on the Finke River, and also at Alice Springs, Dr. 
E. Eyimann, who has 1>een engaged for some time past in scientllic exploration in 
Central Australia, tested carefully the capacity of the natives with regard lo the 
senses of sight and hearing, and has kindly communicated to us the result of his 
tests. Dr. Eylmann saj-s, " I found that both senses were not on an aven^ 
better developed in the aborigines than in Europeans." 



by, those in charge of the native police in various parts of the 
interior of the continent Whilst they can all follow tracks 
which would be indistinguishable to the average white man, 
there is a great difference in their ability to track when the 
tracks become obscure. The difference is so marked that 
while an ordinary good tracker will have difficulty in following 
them while he is on foot, and so can see them close to, a 
really good one will unerringly follow them up on horse or 
camel back.' Not only this, but, strange as it may sound to 
the average white man whose meals are not dependent upon 
his ability to track an animal to its burrow or hiding place, 
the native will rec<^ise the footprint of every individual of 
his acquaintance. 

Whilst in matters such as tracking, which are concerned 
with their everyday life, and upon efficiency in which they 
actually depend for their livelihood, the natives show con- 
spicuous ability, there are other directions in which they .are 
as conspicuously deficient. This is perhaps shown most 
clearly in the matter of counting. At Alice Springs they 
occasionally count, sometimes using their fingers in doing so, 
up to five, but frequently anything beyond four is indicated 
by the word oknira, meaning much or great One is nintha, 
two tkrania or thera, three urapiulia, four therankatkera, five 
theranka-thera-nintha. Time is counted by " sleeps " or 
" moons," or phases of the moon, for which they have definite 
terms : longer periods they reckon by means of seasons, 
having names for summer and winter. They have further 
definite words expressing particular times, such as morning 
before sunrise {ingwuntkagwunthd), evening {ungwurila), 
yesterday {abmirka), day before yesterday {abmirkairplna), 
to-morrow {ingwunthd), day after to-morrow {ingwunthairpind), 
' The experience of Mr. E. C. Cowie, to whose kindly aid we aie much in- 
dchted, and ihan whom no one has had belter opportunities of judging, is decisive 
upon this point. When in puisuit of wild natives amongst the desolate sciubs and 
ranges he has had ample opportunities of coin]>aring their different capacities in 
this respect, and, from long experience, is qualified to speak with certainty. At 
the present time Mr. Cowle has under him one native who, in difficult country — 
and what this means those who have travelled over the wild and desolate parts 
of the interior know well — can follow with unerrinE certainty, and while riding, 
tracks which the other black fellows with him will only distinguish with difficulty, 



in some days (jngwuntkalkura), in a short time (ingwun- 
tkaunma), in a long time {ingwuntha arbarmanitija)} It 
may also be said that for every animal and plant which is 
of any service to them, and for numberless others, such as 
various forms of mice, insects, birds, &c., amongst animals, 
and various kinds of shrubs and grasses amongst plants, they 
have distinctive names ; and, further still, they distinguish the 
sexes, marla indicating the female sex, and uria the male. 
In many respjects their memory is phenomenal. Their mental 
powers are simply developed along the lines which are of 
service to them in their daily life. 

However, to return to the native camp once more. If we 
examine their weapons and implements of various kinds, 
that is those usually carried about, they will be found to be 
comparatively few in number and simple. A woman has 
always a pitcht, that is a wooden trough varying in length 
from one to three feet, which has been hollowed out of the 
soft wood of the bean tree [Erytkrina vespertilio), or it may 
be out of hard wood such as mulga or eucalypt In this she 
carries food material, either balancing it on her head or hold- 
ing it slung on to one hip by means of a strand of human hair 
or ordinary fur string across one shoulder. Not infrequently 
a small baby will be carried about in a pitchL The only 
other implement possessed by a woman is what is popularly 
called a " yam stick," which is simply a digging stick or, to 
speak more correctly, a pick. The commonest form consists 
merely of a straight staff of wood with one or both ends 
bluntly pointed, and of such a size that it can easily be carried 
in the hand and used for dicing in the ground. When at 
work, a woman will hold the pick in the right hand close to 
the lower end, and, alternately digging this into the ground 
with one hand, while with the other she scoops out the 
loosened earth, will dig down with surprising speed. In 
parts of the scrub, where live the honey ants, which form 

' The terms given are those used in the north of (he Arunto. In the south the 
words are often quite different from those used in the north. A Kra"""" "nd 
vocabulary has been published by the Rev. H. Kempe, who was for some years 
in charge of an outlying mission station in the southern part at Hecmannsburg. 
Trans. R. S. SculA Australia, 1891, p. I. 



a very favourite food of the natives, acre after acre of hard 
sandy soil is seen to have been dug out, simply by the picks 
of the women in search of the insect, until the place has just 
the appearance of a deserted field where diggers have, for 
long, been at work " prospecting." Very often a small pitcki 
will be used as a shovel or scoop, to clear the earth out with, 
when it gets too deep to be merely thrown up with the hand, 
as the woman goes on digging deeper and deeper until at last 
she may reach a depth of some six feet or even more. Of 
course the children go out with the women, and from the 
moment that they can toddle about they begin to imitate the 
actions of their mother. In the scrub a woman will be 
digging up lizards or honey ants while close by her small 
child will be at work, with its diminutive pick, taking its 
first lessons in what, if it be a girl, will be the main employ- 
ment of her life. 

So far as clothing is concerned, a woman is not much 
encumbered in her work. She usually wears around her 
neck one or more rings, each of which is commonly formed 
of a central strand of fur string, round which other strands 
are tightly wound till the whole has a diameter varying 
from a quarter to half an inch. The two ends of the 
central strand are left projecting so that they can be tied 
behind the neck, and the ring thus made is thickly coated with 
grease and red ochre. A similar kind of ring is often worn 
on the head ^ and, amongst the younger women especially, 
instead of, or perhaps in addition to, the hair neck ring, there 
may be worn a long string of the bright red beads of the bean 
tree. Each bead is bored through with a fire stick, and the 
pretty necklet thus made hangs round the neck in, several 
coils, or may pass from each shoulder under the opposite 
arm pit 

North of the Macdonnell Ranges the women wear small 
aprons formed of strands of fur string suspended from a waist 
string, and on the forehead they often wear an ornament com- 
posed of a small lump of porcupine-grass resin, into which 
are fixed either a few kangaroo incisor teeth or else a number 

' These head rings, which aie called OkSUanina, are usually made and presented 
to Ibe woman by a son-in-law, Co whom Ihe woman has lo give her own hair. 



of small bright red seeds. A short strand of string is fixed 
into the resin and by means of this the ornament is tied to the 
hair, so that it just overhangs the forehead. 

The men's weapons consist of shield, spears, boomerang 
and spear- thrower, all of which are constantly carried about 
when on the march. The shields, though they vary in size, 
are of similar design over practically the whole Central area. 
They are uniformly made of the light wood of the bean tree, 
so that their actual manufacture is limited to the more 
northern parts where this tree grows. The Warramunga tribe 
are especially noted for their shields, which are traded far and 
wide over the Centre. Each has a distinctly convex outer 
and a concave inner surface, in the middle of which a spacft is 
hollowed out, leaving a bar running across in the direction of 
the length, which can be grasped by the hand. 

In the Ilptrra, Arunta and Luritcha tribes the ordinary 
spear is about ten feet, or somewhat less, in length ; the body 
is made of Tecoma wood and the tip of a piece of mulga, 
which is spliced on to the body and the splicing bound round 
with tendon. Close to the sharp point a small curved barb is 
attached by tendon, though in many this barb is wanting. A 
rarer form of spear is made out of heavier wood, such as the 
desert oak {Casuarina Descaineana), and this is fashioned out 
of one piece and has no barb. 

The spear-thrower is perhaps the most useful single thing 
which the native has. It is in the form of a hollowed out 
piece of mulga from two feet to two feet six inches in length, 
with one end tapering gradually to a narrow handle, and the 
other, more suddenly, to a blunt point, to which is attached, 
by means of tendon, a short, sharp bit of hard wood which 
fits into a hole in the end of a spear. At the handle end is 
a lump of resin into which is usually fixed a piece of sharp- 
edged flint or quartzite, which forms the most important 
cutting weapon of the native. 

The boomerangs are not like the well-known ones which 
are met with in certain other parts and which are so made that 
when thrown they return to the sender. The Central Austra- 
lian native does not appear to have hit upon this contrivance, 
or, at least, if he ever possessed any such, the art of making 



them is now completely lost ; his boomerang has a widely 
open curve, and the flat blade lies wholly in one plane. 

In addition to these weapons a man will probably carry 
about with him a small wallet which is made simply of part 
of the skin of some animal, or perhaps of short strips of bark 



tied round with fur string. In this wallet he will carry a t'jft 
or two of feathers for decoration, a spare bit or two of 
quartzite, a piece of red ochre, a kind of knout which has 
the form of a skein of string, and is supposed, by men and 
women alike, to be of especial use and efficacy in chastising 
women, and possibly he will have some charmed object, such 
as a piece of hair cut from a dead man's head and carefully 
ensheathed in hair or fur string. If the man be old it is not 
at all unlikely that he will have with him, hidden away from 
the sight of the women, a sacred stick or bull-roarer, or even 
a sacred stone. 

In the south of the Arunta tribe the women weave bags 
out of string made of fur or vegetable fibre, in which they 
carry food, &c., but these are not found in the northern parts. 

One of the most striking and characteristic features of the 
Central Australian implements and weapons is the coating of 
red ochre with which the native covers everything except his 
spear and spear-thrower. 

As regards clothing and ornament, the man is little better 
off than the woman. His most constant article is a waist belt 
made of human hair — usually provided by his mother-in-law. 
On his forehead, stretched across from ear to ear, is a ckilara 
or broad band made of parallel strands of fur string, and 
around his neck he will have one or more rings similar to 
those worn by the women. His hair will be well greased 
and also red ochred, and in the Luritcha and Arunta it may 
be surmounted by a pad of emu feathers, worn in much the 
same way as a chignon, and tied on to the hair with fur 
string. If he be at all vain he will have a long nose-bone 
ornament, with a rat-tail or perhaps a bunch of cockatoo 
feathers at one end, his ckilara will be covered with white 
pipeclay on which a design will be drawn in red ochre, and 
into either side of his chignon will be fastened a tuft of white 
or brightly-coloured feathers. His only other article of 
clothing, if such it can be called, is the small pubic tassel 
which, especially if it be covered with white pipeclay, serves 
rather as an ornament than as a covering. 

Such are the ordinary personal belongings of the natives 
which they carry about with them on their wanderings. 



Each local group has certain favourite camping grounds 
by the side of waterholes, where food is more or less easily 
attainable, and in spots such as these there will always be 
found clusters of mia-mias, made of boughs, which are simply 

replaced as the old ones wither up, or when perhaps in the 
hot weather they are burnt down. 

When many of them are camped tofjether it can easily be 
seen that the camp is divided into two halves, each separated 
from the other by some such natural feature as a small creek, 



or very- often if the camping place be close to a hill, the one 
half will erect its mia-mias on the rising, and the other on the 
low ground. We shall see later that in the case of the Arunta 
tribe, for example, all the individuals belong to one or other 
of the four divisions called Panunga, Bulthara, Purula and 
Kumara, and in camp it will be found that the first two are 
always separated from the last two. 

During the day-time the women are sure to be out in search 
of food, while the men either go out in search of larger game, 
or else, if lazy and food be abundant, they will simply sleep 
all day, or perhaps employ their time in making or trimming 
up their weapons. When conditions are favourable every one 
^1 is cheerful and light-hearted, though every now and then a 
quarrel will arise, followed perhaps by a fight, which is usually 
accompanied by much noise and little bloodshed. On such 
occasions, if it be the women who are concerned, fighting 
clubs will be freely used and blows given and taken which 
would soon render hors tie combat an ordinary white woman, 
but which have comparatively little effect upon the black 
women ; the men usually look on with apparent complete 
indifference, but may sometimes interfere and stop the fight 
If, however, two men are fighting, the mother and sisters 
of each will cluster round him, shouting at the top of their 
voices and dancing about with a peculiar and ludicrous high 
knee action, as they attempt to shelter him from the blows 
of his adversary's boomerang or fighting club, with the result 
that they frequently receive upon their bodies the blows 
meant for the man whom they are attempting to shield. 

As a general rule the natives are kindly disposed to one 
another, that is of course within the limits of their own tribe, 
and, where two tribes come into contact with one another on 
the border land of their respective territories, there the same 
amicable feelings are maintained between the members of the 
two. There is no such thing as one tribe being in a constant 
state of enmity with another so far as these Central tribes are 
concerned. Now and again of course fights do occur between 
the members of different local groups who may or may not 
belong to the same or to different tribes. 

We have already spoken of the local groups as being com- 





posed mainly of individuals each of whom bears the name of 
some animal or plant ; that is each such group consists, to a 
large extent, but by no means exclusively, of men and women 
of, what is commonly spoken of as, a particular totem. The 
question of totems amongst these tribes will be dealt with in 
detail subsequently, what we desire to draw attention to here 
is simply the fact that, in these tribes, there is no such thing 
as the members of one totem being bound together in such a 
way that they must combine to fight on behalf of a member 
of the totem to which they belong. If, for example, a large 
number of natives are gathered together and a fight occurs, 
then at once the Panungaand Bukhara men on the one hand, 
and the Purula and Kumara on the other hand, make com- 
mon cause. It is only indeed during the performance of 
certain ceremonies that the existence of a mutual relation- 
ship, consequent upon the possession of a common totemic 
name, stands out at all prominently. In fact it is perfectly 
easy to spend a considerable time amongst the Arunta tribe 
without even being aware that each individual has a totemic 
name, whilst, on the other hand, the fact that every individual 
belongs to one or other of the divisions, Panunga, Purula, 
etc., is soon apparent This is associated with the fact that 
in these tribes, unlike what obtains in so many of the tribes 
whose organisation has hitherto been described, the totem 
has nothing whatever to do with regulating marriage, nor 
again does the child of necessity belong either to its mother's 
or its father's totem. 

In many works on anthropology it is not unusual to see a 
particular custom which is practised in one or more tribes 
quoted in general terms as the custom of " the Australian 
native," It is, however, essential to bear in mind that, whilst 
undoubtedly there is a certain amount in common as regard.s 
social organisation and customs amongst the Australian 
tribes, yet, on the other hand, there is great diversity. Some 
tribes, for example, count descent in the maternal line, others 
count it in the paternal line ; indeed, it is not as yet possible 
to say which of these methods is the more widely practised 
in Australia. In some tribes totems govern marriage, in 
others they have nothing to do with the question. In some 




tribes a tooth is knocked out at the initiation rite, in others 
the knocking out of the tooth may be practised, but is not 
part of the initiation rite, and in others again the custom is 
not practised at all. In some tribes the initiation rite con- 

sists in circumcision and perhaps other forms of mutilation 
as well ; in others this practice is quite unknown. In some 
tribes there is a sex totem, in others there is no such thing ; 
and in isolated cases we meet with an individual totem 



distinct from the totem common to a group of men and 

When the great size of the land area occupied by the 
Australian tribes is taken into account, such diversity in 
custom and organisation is not to be wondered at. When, 
if ever, we gain an adequate knowledge of the various tribes 
still left, it may be possible to piece the whole together and 
to trace out the development from a common starting-point 
of the various customs and systems of organisation met with 
in different parts of the continent. At the present time we 
can perhaps group the tribes into two or three large divisions, 
each possessing certain well-marked features in common, such 
as counting descent in the maternal or paternal line as the 
case may be, but beyond this, as yet, we cannot go.^ 

' It is not easy to s.iy with anj-lhing like certainty thai one trilie is in any ]>ar- 
ticular respect more "pritiiitive" than another. Ilis.forexamplcgenerallyasstinieJ 
that counting descent in the female, is a more primitive method (ban counting 
descent in the male line, and that of two tribes, in one of which we have matemal 
descent and in the other paternal, the former is in this respect in a more ])nniitLve 
condition than the latter ; but it may even be doubted whether in all cases tlie 
counting of descent in the female line has prece<led the counting of it in the male 
line. The very fact that descent iscountedat all, that is, that any given individual 
when born has some distinguishing name, because he or she is bom of some par- 
ticular woman, indicates the fact that men and women are divided into groups 
bearing such distinctive names, for it must be rememl>ered (hat in these savage 
tribes the name which is transmitted to offspring, and by means of which descent 
is counted, is always a group name. When once we have any such system, 
whether il be (olemic or otherwise, then we have arrived at a stage in which it is 
possible to imagine that the men of one particular grou^] have marital relations only 
with women of another particular group. Supposing we take two of these 
exogamous groups, which we will designate A and B. Thus men of A have marital 
relations with women of B, and vice verta. When once these groups arc 
established, then, there is, in reality, nodilficulty whatever in counting descent in the 
male just as easily as in the female line. It is quite true that the individual father 
of any particular child may not lie known, but this, so far as counting descent 
under the given conditions is concerned, is a matter of no importance. The Only 
Dame which can be transmitted, and by means of which descent can be counted (as 
indeed it is amongst the Australian tribes of the present day), is the group name, 
and as women of group B can only have marital relations with men of group A, 
it follows that the father of any child of a woman of group B must belong to group 
A, and therefore, though the actual father may not be known, there appears to he 
no inevitable necessity for the child to into group B rather than into group 
A. On the other hand, if we suppose men of one group to have marital relations 
with women of more than one other group, then, unless each woman be restricted 
to one man, descent, if counted at all, must of necessity follow the female line. 



In the matter of personal appearance, whilst conforming 
generally to the usual Australian type of features, there Is 
very considerable difference between various individuals. In 
the matter of height, the average of twenty adult males 
measured by us, was i66'3 cm. The tallest was I78-2 cm., 
and the shortest is8'2 cm. The average of ten adult 
females was 1568 cm. ; the tallest was 163 cm., and the 
shortest was 15 15 cm. The average chest measurement of 
the same twenty men was 90*33 cm. ; the greatest being 97 
cm., and the least 83 cm. 

In some the pronounced curfre of the nose gave superfici- 
ally a certain Jewish aspect, though in many this curve was 
completely wanting, and in all the nasal width was very con- 
siderable, the spreading out of the lobes being certainly 
emphasised by the practice of wearing a nose-bone. In the 
twenty males the average width was 48 cm. and the length 
5'i cm. ; in the ten females the average width was 4'3 cm. 
and the length 46 cm. The greatest width in any male was 
5'4 cm. and the least 3"9 cm. ; the length of the former was 
5'2cm., and of the latter 4 cm. The greatest length was 6-2 cm., 
and in this case the width was 49 cm., which represents the 
greatest variation measured as between the length and width, 
the latter in some few cases (five out of the thirty) slightly 
exceeding the length. The root of the nose is depressed and 
the supra-orbital ridges very strongly marked. The buccal 
width is considerable, averaging S'S cm. in the males and 
5'4 cm. in the females. The greatest width in the males is 
6'S cm. and in the females 6 cm., the least width being re- 
spectively 5^3 cm. and 47 cm. The lips are always thick. 

In colour the Central Australian, though usually described 
as black, is by no means so. Out of the twenty males ex- 
amined all, save one, corresponded as closely as possible with 
the chocolate-brown which is numbered 28 on Broca's scheme,' 
the odd one was slightly lighter. The only way in which to 
judge correctly of the colour is to cut a small square hole in 
a sheet of white paper and to place this upon the skin ; un- 
less this is done there is a tendency on first inspection to 
think that the tint is darker than it really is. To ascertain 

' Instrueti^its Anihropelegiquet Ghiiralcs, M. P. Broca, and edit., 1879. 



the tint two or three parts of the body were tested, the chest, 
back and legs. It must be remembered that the Central 
Australian native is fond of rubbing himself over with grease 
and red ochre, especially at times when ceremonies are being 
performed, but we do not think that in the individuals ex^* 
amined this interfered materially with the determination, the 
colour of all the individuals and of the various parts tested 
being strikingly uniform. While at work we always had 
two or three of them together, and they could always detect 
the patch of colour on the plate which corresponded to that 
of the skin examined. The women, with one exception, 
corresponded in colour to number 29, the odd one being 
of the darker shade, number 28, like the men. The new- 
born child is always of a decidedly lighter tint, but it rapidly 
darkens after the first day or two. A half-caste girl at Alice 
Springs corresponded to number 21 in colour, and the off- 
spring, a few months old, by a white man of a half-caste 
woman in the southern part of the tribe, was undistinguishable 
in colour from the average English child of the same age. 

The hair of the head is always well developed in the males, 
though, owing to certain customs which will be described 
later, and which necessitate the periodical cutting off of the 
hair, the amount on the head of any individual is a variable 
quantity. When fully developed it falls down over the 
shoulders in long and very wavy locks. As a general rule it 
is shorter than this, but it always appears to be more or less 
wavy, though the fondness of the natives for smearing it over 
with grease and red ochre frequently results in the produc- 
tion of tangled locks, in each of which the component hairs 
are matted together, whereas in the natural state they would 
simply form a wa\-y mass. The beard is usually well-devel- 
oped, and better so amongst the Arunta, Ilpirra, and Luritcha 
than amongst the northern tribes, such as the Warramunga 
and Waagi, where the whiskers are usually but comparatively 
poorly developed. The beard is usually frizzy rather than 
wavy, and in some instances this feature is a very striking 
one ; but we have never, amongst many hundred natives 
examined, seen one which could be called woolly. The colour, 
except amongst the older men who have reached an age of. 



SO far as can be judged, fifty or sixty years, when the hair 
becomes scanty and white, is usually jet black, though the 
presence of abundant red ochre may, at first sight, cause it to 
appear to be of a more brownish hue, and occasionally it is of 
a dark brown tint rather than jet black. Amongst the children 

there are now and then met with some whose hair is of a 
decidedly lighter colour, but the lightness is confined to the 
tips, very rarely reaching to the roots, and with the growth of 
the individual it usually, but not always, assumes the normal 
dark colour. The legs and arms usually Have a thin coating 



of short, crisp, black hair, and sometimes the whole body may 
be covered with hair, the most extreme development of which 
was seen in the case of one of the oldest men, where, as the 
hair was white with age, it stood out in strong contrast to the 
dark skin ; but, as a rule, the hairs on the general surface 
of the body are nothing like so strongly developed as in the 
case of the average Englishman, and are not noticeable except 
on close examination. 

The method of treatment of the hair varies in different 
tribes and produces a marked difference in the appearance of 
the face. In all the tribes living between Charlotte Waters 
in the south and Tennant Creek in the north the men, at 
puberty, pull out the hairs on the forehead, causing this to 
look much more lofty and extensive than it is in reality. Each 
hair is separately pulled out, and over the part thus artificially 
made bare the chilara or forehead band is worn. The remain- 
ing hair is tightly pulled back and usually bound round with 
fur string, and is often in the Arunta and Luritcha tribes sur- 
mounted by the emu-feather chignon already referred to. in 
the Urabunna tribe away to the south of Charlotte Waters the 
hair is often enclosed in a net-like structure. In the War- 
ramunga tribe the older men, but only those who have reached 
an age of about forty years, pull the hairs out of the upper 
lip, a custom never practised in the more southern tribes. 

Amongst the women the hair is generally worn short,' 
which is closely associated with the fact that, at times, each 
woman has to present her hair to the man who is betrothed 
to her daughter, for the purpose of making him a waist-belt. 
The body is usually smooth with, at most, a development of 
very fine short hairs only perceptible on close examination, 
and there may be occasionally a well-marked development of 
hair on the lip or chin, which is especially noticeable in the 
old women, some of whom are probably fifty years of age and 
have reached a stage of ugliness which baffles description. 

A very striking feature of both men and women are the 
body scars which are often spoken of as tattoo marks, a name 
which, as Dr. Stirling says, "is unfortunate and should be 

' Amongst Ihe Warramunga women the haii on the middle of the hnd may be 
m&de into a plait which falls over towanls the foieheail. 



abandoned, as the scars in question with which the bodies of 
Australian natives are generally decorated differ entirely from 
the coloured patterns produced by the permanent staining of 
the tissue with pigments to which the term tattoo mark ought 
to be limited."' 

Every individual has a certain number of these scars raised 
on his body and arms, but very rarely on the back. As is 

well known, they are made by cutting the skin with a piece of 
flint, or, at the present day, glass is used when obtainable, and 
into the wound thus made ashes are rubbed or the down of 
the eagle-hawk, the idea being, so they say, to promote heal- 
ing, and not, though the treatment probably has this effect, to 
aid in the raising of a scar. In some cases they may stretch 
right across the chest or abdomen. As a general rule the 
scars are both more numerous and longer on the men than on 
' Ijk. til., p. 34. 



the women, but no definite distinction can be drawn in this 
respect ; the absolutely greatest number of scars noticed being 
on a woman on whom there were forty roughly parallel 
cicatrices between the navel and a point just above the 
breasts. Very frequentlj-, on the other hand, the scars are 
limited on a woman to one or two which unite the breasts 
across the middle line. The cicatrices in the region of the 
breast usually stand out most prominently, the most marked 
ones having an elevation of 15 mm. and a width of 20 mm. 
In addition to these roughly horizontal bands, which are 
always made in greater or les.ser number, others may be 
present which we may divide into three series, {a) a few usually 
curved bands on the scapular region which are not often met 
with ; (d) a series of usual ly paired short bands leading off on 
either side obliquely across the chest to the shoulder; (c) 
bands on the arms. In some cases these may be vertically 
disposed, in others horizontally, and in others we find some 
of one form and some of the other. In all of them again 
there is no distinction to be drawn between men and 
women. Occasionally the cicatrices on the arm will be 
as prominent as those on the body, but usually they are 
less so. 

There is, apart from ornament, no special meaning, so far 
as their form or arrangement is concerned, to be attached at 
the present day to these cicatrices, nor could we discover any- 
thing in their customs and traditions leading to the belief that 
they had ever had any deeper meaning.' Vague statements 
have been made with regard to marks such as these, to the 
effect that they indicate, in some way, the particular division 
of the tribe to which each individual belongs. Amongst the 
tribes from Oodnadatta in the south, to Tennant Creek in 
the north, they certainly have no such meaning, and we are 
very sceptical as to whether they have anywhere in Australia ; 
they are so characteristic of the natives of many parts, that 
the idea of their having a definite meaning is one which 
naturally suggests itself ; but at all events, so far as the tribes 
now dealt with are concerned, they have no significance at 

' Certain of them, both on men and women, arc made at Kpeciat times in con- 
nection with initiatory and mouming 



the present day as indicative of either tribal, class, or totemic 

In addition to these every man will be marked usually on 
the left shoulder, but sometimes on the right as well, with 
irregular scars which may form prominent cicatrices, and are 
the result of self-inflicted wounds made on the occasion of the 
mourning ceremonies which are attendant upon the death of 
individuals who stand in certain definite relationships to him, 

such, for example, as his Ikuntera or father-in-law, actual or 
tribal. Not infrequently the men's thighs will be marked with 
scars indicative of wounds inflicted with a stone knife during 
a fight 

Just like the men, the women on the death of certain rela- 
tives cut themselves, and these cuts often leave scars behind. 
Sometimes writers have described these scars and treated 
them as evidence of the cruel treatment of the women by the 
men, whereas, as a matter of fact, by far the greater number 



of scars, which are often a prominent feature on a woman's 
body, are the indications of self-inflicted wounds, and of them 
she is proud, as they are the visible evidence of the fact that 
she has properly mourned for her dead. 

Not infrequently platycnemia, or flattening of the tibia! 
bones, is met with, and at times the curious condition to which 
Dr. Stirling has given the name of Camptocnemia. The 
latter consists in an anterior curvature of the tibial bone and 
gives rise to what the white settlers have, for long, described 
by the very apt term " boomerang- leg." To what extent 
either or both of these conditions are racial or pathological it 
-seems difficult to say, and for a full description of them the 
reader is referred to Dr. Stirling's report' 

As a general rule both men and women are well nourished, 
but naturally this depends to a large extent on the nature of 
the season. When travelling and hungry the plan is adopted 
of tightening the waistbelt, indeed this is worn so tight 
that it causes the production of a loose flap of skin, which is 
often a prominent feature on the abdomens of the older men. 
Though the leg is not strongly developed, so far as size is 
concerned, still it is not always so spindle-shaped as is 
usually the case amongst Australian natives, and the muscles 
are as hard as possible, for the black fellow is always in 
training. The calf is decidedly thin, the average of the 
twenty men, in circumference in its widest part, being 3f5 cm., 
and of the ten women, 298 cm. 

The hands are decidedly small, the lat^e span of the men 
averaging 168 cm. and of the women, IS'6 cm. Only three 
of the men measure over 18 cm., and one measuring 22 cm. 
was of very exceptional size for a native. The smallest 
measures 153 cm. 

For the measurements of the head reference must be made 
to the appendix ; here it must suffice to say that the average 
cephalic index of the twenty men is 74-5, and that of the 
ten women, 757, These are, of course, the measurements in 
the living subject; but, even if we allow for the two units 
which Broca concluded should be subtracted from the index 



of the living subject to get that of the cranium,' they are still 
relatively high as compared with the index of /rs, which 
may be regarded as about the average index for Australian 
skulls. It must also be noted that there is great variability 
amongst the different individuals, the minimum measurement 
of the males being 68-S lying at the extreme of dolicho- 
cephalic skulls, while the maximum of SO'SS is just within 
the limit of sub-brachicephalic skutls. In the females the 

smallest index is 73'88, and the largest 807. It must also be 
remembered that, owing to constant rubbing of the head with 
grease and red ochre, which mat the hairs together and form 
a kind of coating all round their roots, there is considerable 
difRculty experienced in bringing the instrument into contact 
with the actual scalp, and that this difficulty has of course to 
be encountered twice in the measurement of the transverse 

' As quoted by Topinard, Anlhrafolagy, English trans., 1896, p. 336. Broca's 
origino] paper is not available in Melbouinc 



diameter. Making all allowances, there remains the strongly 
marked variation which undoubtedly exists amongst the 
various individuals. 

We may, in general terms, describe the Arunta native as 
being somewhat under the average height of an Englishman. 
His skin is of a dark chocolate colour, his nose is distinctly 
platyrhinic with the root deep set, his hair is abundant and 
wavy, and his beard, whiskers and moustache well-developed 
and usually frizzled and Jet black. His supra-orbital 
ridges are well -developed, and above them the forehead 
slopes back with the hair removed so as to artificially increase 
its size. His body is well formed and very lithe, and he 
carries himself gracefully and remarkably erect with his head 
thrown well back. 

Naturally, in the case of the women, everything depends 
upon their age, the younger ones, that is those between four- 
teen and perhaps twenty, have decidedly well-formed figures, 
and, from theirhabit of carrying on the head ^//c/«j containing 
food and water, they carry themselves often with remarkable 
grace. As is usual, however, in the case of savage tribes the 
drudgery of food-collecting and child-bearing tells upon them 
at an early age, and between twenty and twenty-five they 
begin to lose their graceful carriage ; the face wrinkles, the 
breasts hang pendulous, and, as a general rule, the whole 
body begins to shrivel up, until, at about the age of thirty, 
all traces of an earlier well-formed figure and graceful carriage 
are lost, and the woman develops into what can only be 
called an old and wrinkled hag. 

In regard to their character it is of course impossible to 
judge them from a white man's standard. In the matter of 
morality their code differs radically from ours, but it cannot 
be denied that their conduct is governed by it, and that any 
known breaches are dealt with both surely and severely. In 
very many cases there takes place what the white man, not 
seeing beneath the surface, not unnaturally describes as secret 
murder, but, in reality, revolting though such slaughter may 
be to our minds at the present day, it is simply exactly on a 
par with the treatment accorded to witches not so very long 
ago in European countries. Every case of such secret murder, 



when one or more men stealthily stalk their prey with the 
object of killing him, is in reality the exacting of a life for a life. 



the accused person being indicated by the so-called medicine 
man as one who has brought about the death of another man 



by magic, and whose life must therefore be forfeited.' It need 
hardly be pointed out what a potent element this custom has 
been in keeping down the numbers of the tribe; no such 
thing as natural death is realised by the native ; a man who 
dies has of necessity been killed by some other man, or 
perhaps even by a woman, and sooner or later that man or 
woman will be attacked. In the norma! condition of the 
tribe every death meant the killing of another individuaL 

Side by side, however, with this crude and barbarous custom 
we find others which reveal a more pleasing side of the native 
character. Generosity is certainly one of his leading features. 
He is always accustomed to give a share of his food, or of 
what he may possess, to his fellows. It may be, of course, 
objected to this that in so doing he is only following an old- 
established custom, the breaking of which would expose him 
to harsh treatment and to being looked upon as a churlish 
fellow. It will, however, hardly be denied that, as this custom 
expresses the idea that in this particular matter every one is 
supposed to act in a kindly way towards certain individuals, 
the very existence of such a custom, even if it be only carried 
out in the hope of securing at some time a quid pro quo, 
shows that the native is alive to the fact that an action which 
benefits some one else is worthy of being performed. And 
here we may notice a criticism frequently made with regard 
to the native, and that is that he is incapable of gratitude. It 
is undoubtedly true that the native is not in the habit of 
showing anything like excessive gratitude on receiving gifts 
from the white man, but then neither does he think it neces- 
sary lo express his gratitude when he receives a gift from one 
of his own tribe. It is necessary to put one's self into the 
mental attitude of the native, and then the matter is capable 
of being more or less explained and understood, it is with 
him a fixed habit to give away part of what he has, and he 
neither expects the man to whom he gives a thing to express 
his gratitude, nor, when a native gives him anything, does he 

1 At the final mourning ceremonies of an old man held recently, when the men 
were leaving ihe grave one of the older ones jumped on lo it and shouted out, 
"We have not found the Kurdaitcha who killed you yet, but we will find him 



think it necessary to do so himself, for the simple reason that 
giving and receiving are matters of course in his everyday 

. |6, — OLD WOMAN, 

life; so, when he receives anything from a white man, he 
does not think it necessary to do what he neither does nor is 



expected to do, in the case of his fellow-tribesmen. It does 
not occur to him that an expression of gratitude is necessary. 
On the other hand he parts, as a matter of course, and often 
for the merest trifle (not only what is a trifle to us, but also to 
him), with objects which have cost him much labour to pro- 
duce, but which a white man perhaps takes a fancy to. That 
he is, in reality, incapable of the feeling of gratitude is, so far 
as our experience goes, by no means true, it may be added 
that, taking all things into account, the black fellow has not 
perhaps any particular reason to be grateful to the white man, 
for it must be remembered that his feelings are concerned 
with the group rather than with the individual. To come in 
contact with the white man means that, as a general rule, his 
food supply is restricted, and that he is, in many cases, warned 
off from the water-holes which are the centres of his best 
hunting grounds, and to which he has been accustomed to 
resort during the performance of his sacred ceremonies ; 
white the white man kills and hunts his kangaroos and emus 
he is debarred in turn from hunting and killing the white 
man's cattle. Occasionally the native will indulge in a cattle 
hunt; but the result is usually disastrous to himself, and on 
the whole he succumbs quietly enough to his fate, realising 
the impossibility of attempting to defend what he certainly 
regards as his own property. 

With regard to their treatment of one another it may be 
said that this is marked on the whole by considerable kind- 
ness, that is, of course, in the case of members of friendly 
groups, with every now and then the perpetration of acts of 
cruelty. The women are certainly not treated usually with 
anything which could be called excessive harshness. They 
have, as amongst other savage tribes, to do a considerable 
part, but by no means all, of the work of the camp, but, after 
all, in a good season this does not amount to very much, and 
. in a bad season men and women suffer alike, and of what 
food there is they get their share. If, however, rightly or 
wrongly, a man thinks his wife guilty of a breach of the 
laws which govern marital relations, then undoubtedly the 
treatment of the woman is marked by brutal and often re- 
volting severity. To their children they are, we may say 



uniformly, with very rare exceptions, kind and considerate, 

carrying them, the men 

as well as the women 
taking part in this, when 
they get tired on the 
march, and always seeing 
that they get a good share 
of any food. Here again 
it must be remembered 
that the native is liable 
to fits of sudden passion, 
and in one of these, hardly 
knowing what he does, he 
may treat a child with 
great severity. There is 
no such thing as doing 
away with aged or infirm 
people ; on the contrary 
such are treated with es- 
pecial kindness, receiving 
a share of the food which 
they are unable to pro- 
cure for themselves. 

Infanticide is undoubt- 
edly practised, but, ex- 
cept on rare occasions, 
the child is killed imme- 
diately on birth, and then 
only when the mother is, 
or thinks she is, unable 
to rear it owing to there 
being a young child whom 
she is still feeding, and 
with them suckling is 
continued for it may be 

several years. They be- _ o,, - - 

lieve that the spirit part wARKAMUNfiA trcbe. 

of the child goes back at 

once to the particular spot from whence it came, and can 

E 2 



be born again at some subsequent time even of the same 
woman. Twins, which are of extremely rare occurrence, are 
usually immediately killed as something which is unnatural ; 

but there is no ill-treatment of the mother, who is not thought 
any the less of, such as is described as occurring in the case of 
certain West African peoples by Miss Kingsley. We cannot 
find out what exactly lies at the root of this dislike of 
twins in the case of the Arunta and other tribes. Dr. Fison 
once suggested that it might be due to the fact that the idea 
of two individuals of the same class being associated so 
closely was abhorrent to the native mind, that it was, in fact, 
looked upon much in the light of incest. In the case of the 
twins being one a boy and the other a girl, this might account 
for it, but when they both are of the same sex it is difficult to 
see how any feeling of this kind could arise. Possibly it is to 
be explained on the simpler ground that the parent feels a not 
altogether unrighteous anger that two spirit individuals should 
think of entering the body of the woman at one and the same 
time, when they know well that the mother could not possibly 
rear them both, added to which the advent of twins is of very 
rare occurrence, and the native always has a dread of anything 
which appears strange and out of the common. In connec- 
tion with this it may be added that on the very rare occasions 
on which the child is born at a very premature stage as the 
result of an accident, nothing will persuade them that it is an 
undeveloped human being ; they are perfectly convinced that 
it is the young of some other animal, such as a kangaroo, which 
has by some mistake got inside the woman.' 

On rare occasions, at all events amongst the Luritcha tribe, 
children of a few years of age are killed, the object of this 
being to feed a weakly but elder child, who is supposed 
thereby to gain the strength of the killed one. 

' Sterility is of frequent occurrence ai the present day amongst ihe native 
women. The greatest fertility is amongst Ihe strong stout women, the thin and 
weaker ones rarely having children. Possibly sterility in many cases is associated 
with injury received during the initiation rite of Arilthakuma. The natives 
helieve thai it may be brought about by a girl in her youth phiyfully or thought- 
lessly tying on a man's hair waist-band. The latter so used, if only for a moment 
or two, has the effect of cramping her internal organs and making them incapable 
of the necessary cxiiansion, and this is the most frequent explanation of slerility 
given b>' the natives. 



When times are favourable the black fellow is as light- 
hearted as possible. He has not the slightest thought of, or 
care for, what the morrow may bring forth, and lives entirely » 
in the present. At night time men, women and children V 
gather round the common camp fires talking and singing their 
monotonous chants hour after hour, until one after the other 
they drop out of the circle, going off" to their different camps, 
and then at length all will be quiet, except for the occasional 

cry of a child who, as not seldom happens, rolls over into the 
fire and has to be comforted or scolded into quietness. 

There is, however, in these, as in other savage tribes, an 
undercurrent of anxious feeling which, though it may be 
stilled and, indeed, forgotten for a time, is yet always present. 
In his natural state the native is often thinking that some 
enemy is attempting to harm him by means of evil magic, 
and, on the other hand, he never knows when a medicine man 
in some distant group may not point him out as guilty 



of killing some one else by magic. It is, however, easy to lay 
too much stress upon this, for here again we have to put 
ourselves into the mental attitude of the savage, and must not 
imagine simply what would be our own feelings under such 
circumstances. It is not right, by any means, to say that the 
Australian native lives in constant dread of the evil magic of 
an enemy. The feeling is always, as it were, lying dormant 
and ready to be at once called up by any strange or suspicious 
sound if he be alone, especially at night time. In the bush ; 
but on the other hand, just like a child, he can with ease 
foi^et anything unpleasant and enter perfectly into the en- 
joyment of the present moment. Granted always that his 
food supply is abundant, it may be said that the life of the 
Australian native is, for the most part, a pleasant one. 

In common with all other Australian tribes, those of the 
Centre have been shut off from contict with other peoples, 
and have therefore developed for long ages without the 
stimulus derived from external sources. It is sometimes 
asserted that the Australian native is degenerate, but it is 
difhcult to see on what grounds this conclusion is based. 
His customs and organisation, as well as his various weapons 
and implements, show, so far as we can see, no indication of 
any such feature. It may be said that, as far as we are yet 
acquainted with their customs, the various tribes may be 
regarded as descended from ancestors who observed in 
common with one another certain customs, and were regulated 
by a definite social .system which was at one time common to 
them all. In course of time, as they wandered over the 
continent and became divided into groups, locally isolated to 
a large extent from one another, these groups developed along 
different lines. It i.s true that there has not been any strongly 
marked upward movement, but on the other hand, with 
possibly a few exceptions which might have been expected 
to occur now and again in particular cases such as that of the 
Kulin tribe, instanced by Mr, Howitt, any movement which 
there has been in social matters has been clearly in the 
direction of increasing their complexity, and there is, at all 
events, no evidence of the former existence of any stage of 
civilisation higher than the one in which we now find them. 




Division of the Iribe into two eiogunous inlermanying groups — Remarks _._ 
"gToup-marnBge" — Teims of relationship — The Utterare not in these tribes 
" (ends of address," the object of which is the avoidance of the use of persooBl 
names — There ve no terms of relationship in English which convey 
meanii^ as do those of Australian natives — Oi^nisation of the I 
tribe — Marriage r^ulaled by lolem — Absence of individual marriage, and the 
existence of a form of group- marriage— Terms of relationship— Arrangement 
of the classes so as to allow of counting descent in either the matettuil or 
paternal line — Organisation of the Arunta tribe — Marriage is not regulated 
or totem — Terms of relalioruhip amongst the Arunta, Luritcha, l4flSKand 
Warramunga tribes— Details with re^d to the terms of relatioi]sliS,iif the 
Annta tribe — Particular (enris applied to falher-in-law, &c.— Rejections 
with regard tu elder and younger sisters — The class divisions of the Ilpirra, 
Kaitish, Iliaura, Waagai, Warramun^, Bii^ongina and Walpari tribes — 
Distinct names for males and temales in the last three. 

The fundamental feature in the oi^nisation of the Central 
Australian, as in that of other Australian tribes, is the division 
of the tribe into two ext^amous inter-marrying groups. 
These two divisions may become further broken up, but even 
when more than two are now present we can still recognise 
their former existence. 

In consequence of, and intimately associated with, this 
division of the tribe, there has been developed a series of 
terms of relationship indicating the relative status of the 
various members of the tribe, and, of necessity, as the division 
becomes more complex so do the terms of relationship. 

In the tribes with which we are dealing we can recognise at 
least two important types which illustrate different grades in 
the development of the social organisation. The first of these 
is found in the Urabunna tribe, the second in the Arunta, 
llpirra, Kaitish, Waagai, Warramunga, Iliaura, and Bingon- 
gina tribes. 




The less complex the organisation of the tribe the more 
clearly do we see evidence of what Messrs. Howitt and Fison 
have called, in regard to Australian tribes, " group marriage." 
Under certain modifications this still exists as an actual 
custom, regulated by fixed and well-recc^nised rules, amongst 
various Australian tribes, whilst in others the terms of relation- 
ship indicate, without doubt, its former existence. As is well 
known, Mr. McLennan held that the terms must have been 
invented by the natives using them merely for the purpose of 
addressing each other or as modes of salutation. To those 
who have been amongst and watched the natives day after 
day, this explanation of the terms is utterly unsatisfactory. 
When, in various tribes, we find series of terms of relationship 
all dependent upon classificatory systems such as those now 
to be described, and referring entirely to a mutual relationship 
such as would be brought about by their existence, we cannot 
do otherwise than come to the conclusion that the terms do 
actua^ indicate various degrees of relationship based 
primarily upon the existence of inter-marrying groups. 
When we find, for example, that amongst the Arunta natives 
a man calls a large number of men belonging to one particular 
group by the name " Oknia " (a term which includes our 
relationship of father), that he calls all the wives of these 
men by the common name of " Mia " (mother),^ and that he 
calls all their sons by the name of " Okilia" (elder brother) or 
" Itia " (younger brother), as the case may be, we can come to 
no other conclusion than that this is expressive of his recogni- 
tion of what may be called a group relationship. All the 
" fathers " are men who belong to the particular group to which 
his own actual father belongs ; all the " mothers " belong to 
the same group as that to which his actual mother belongs, 
and all the " brothers" belong to his own group. 

Whatever else they may be, the relationship terms are 
certainly not terms of address, the object of \vhich is to 
prevent the native having to employ a personal name. In 
the Arunta tribe, for example, every man and woman has a 

' In using the English term we Ho not mean to imply that it is the equivalent 
of the native term, Inil simply thai the latter incluiles the relationshi]) indicated 
1^ the English term. 



personal name by which he or she is freely addressed by 
others — that is, by any, except a member of the opposite sex 
who stands in the relationship of " Mura " to them, for such 
may only on very rare occasions speak to one another.' 
When, as has happened time after time to us, a native says, 
for example, " That man is Oriaka (a personal name), he is 
my 0/fiita," and you cannot possibly tell without further 
inquiry whether he is the speaker's blood or tribal brother — 
that is, the son of his own father or of some man belonging 
to the same particular group as his father — then the idea that 
the term " Okilia" is applied as a polite term of address, or 
in order to avoid the necessity of using a personal name, is at 
once seen to be untenable. 

It is, at all events, a remarkable fact that (apart from the 
organisation of other tribes, in respect of which we are not 
competent to speak, but for which the same fact is vouched 
for by other observers) in all the tribes with which we are 
acquainted, all the terms coincide, without any exception, in 
the recognition of relationships, all of which are dependent 
upon the existence of a classificatory system, the fundamental 
idea of which is that the women of certain groups marry the 
men of others. Each tribe has one term applied indiscrimi- 
nately by the man to the woman or women whom he actually 
marries and to all the women whom he might lawfully marry — ■ 
that is, who belong to the right group — one term to his actual 
mother and to all the women whom his father might law- 
fully have married ; one term to his actual brother and to all 
the sons of his father's brothers, and so on right through 

' A child is, at its binh, veiy often named after the place at which (he mother 
imagines she conceived it — that is the spot al which she first becomes aware thai 
she is, as the natives say, " aliiunla." For instance, the child of a woman who 
Selieves that she conceived il at Alice Springs is called Atlhuriira-rinia, 
" Atlhuriira " being the native name of Alice Springs, and " riiiia" a suffix mean- 
it^ " of" or " belonging to." In addition to the locality name others, which we 
can only call nick-names, are given. These are very popular, and are derived 
frvm some personal peculiarity or firum some fanciful resemblance to a particular 
animal oi plant. Every individual has also a sacred name, which is especially 
aisociaied with his or bei ihnritiga or sacred emiilem, and which is only known 
to the men of his or her own local lolemic group. Details with regard to the 
names are given in Appendix A. 




the whole system. To this it may be added that, if these be 
not terms of relationship, then the language of these tribes is 
absolutely devoid of any such.i 

A great part of the difficulty in understanding these terms 
lies in the fact that we have amongst ourselves no terms 
which convey the same idea of relationship as do those of 
savage peoples. When once, for example, the term "Mia" 
used amongst the Arunta tribe, has been translated by the 
English term " mother," an entirely wrong impression is apt to 
to conveyed. Mia does include the relationship which we call 
mother, but it includes a great deal more, and to the Arunta 
native the restriction of the term as used in English is as 
incomprehensible as apparently the extension of the term is 
to white men who are not accustomed to the native use. To 
understand the native it is simply essential to lay aside all 
ideas of relationship as counted amongst ourselves. They 
have no words equivalent to our English words father, mother, 
brother, &c. A man, for example, will call his actual mother 
"Mia" but, at the same time, he will apply the term not 
only to other grown women, but to a little girl child, provided 
they all belong to the same group. We have, for example, 
asked a fully grown man who the little child was with whom 
he was playing, and have received the answer that it was so 
and so, mentioning her personal name, and that she was his 
Mia. Her own personal name he would use in speaking both 
to her and to us, but the term Mia expressed the relationship 
in which she stood to him. 

We have dwelt somewhat at length upon this because so 
distinguished a writer as Mr, McLennan and others who, 
accepting his dictum, have dealt with the subject, have 
attempted to disprove the supposition that any such group 
relationship is actually expressed in the terms of relationship 
used by the Australian natives. For this reason we have, as 

) To (his may be added, still further, (he fact that there do exist ccnain terms 
applied by men to ceruin particular individuals which are in the strict sens« 
"terms of address." A man, for example, addresses |iarticular men who took 
port in his iniliation ceremonies by such (eims as Tapunga, Urin(hantima, &c. , 
which express no relationship, and the significance of which is entirely di-slinct 
from the true \etras of relationship now dealt nilh. 



carefully and minutely as possible, and without prejudice in 
favour of one theory or the other, examined into the social 
organisation of the tribes with which we have come into 
contact The conclusion to which we have come is that we 
do not see how the facts, which will now be detailed and 
upon a consideration of which this conclusion is based, can 
receive any satisfactory explanation except on the theory of 
the former existence of group marriage, and further, that this 
has of necessity given rise to the terms of relationship used 
by the Australian natives. As will be seen, group marriage, 
in a modified but yet most unmistakable way, occurs as an 
actual system in one of the tribes with which we are dealing. 

We may now pass on to consider first the organisation of 
the Urabunna tribe, as this represents a less complex con 
dition than the second type which is met with in the Arunta 
and other tribes. 

In reference to the names to apply to the various divisions 
of the tribe, we have felt considerable difficulty, and have 
decided that as such terms as phratry, gens, clan, &c., have 
all of them a definite significance, and, as applied to Australian 
tribes, may be misleading, it is better to use the term class 
as appl)'ing to the two main exogamous intermarrying groups, 
each of which forms a moiety of the tribe, and the term sub- 
class as applying to the divisions of the class. We therefore 
use these terms with this significance.' 

The Urabunna organisation appears to be, if not identical 
with, at least very closely similar to, that of the Dieri tribe, 
whose territory adjoins it on the south, and which has been 
dealt with previously by Mr. Howitt.* The whole tribe is 

' Mr. Kolh, in his work on Ihe North- Wesi Central Queensland aborigines, has 
propO!^ a seHes of terms, Palronym, Gamomationym, Pxdomalronyin, Autonj'm, 
iVc. Aparl from the &« that these appear to us lo be too cumbersome, Ihe 
lerroination " nym " which is common to them alt implies, ns it were, a certain 
equivalency amongst them which does not exist, and therefore they appeal lo us 
tu be somewhat misleading. We shall merely use Ihe terms class, sub-class, 
lotem Dame, sacred name, terms of relationship, terms of address, personal name, 
iiatns term. 

■ Cf. Howitt, "The Dieri and other Kindred Tribes of Central Australia," 
Jntr. Antk. Inst., vol. ik. p. 30; see also Cason. The Dieytrit Tribi of 
Australian Aborigines. The classes MatlhuKe and Kirarawa of the Urabunna 
are (he cqui^'alents uf the Matteii and Karara of the Dieri. 



divided up into two exogamous intermarrying classes, which 
are respectively called Matthurie and Kirarawa, and the 
members of each of these again are divided into a series 
of totemic groups, for which the native name is Thunlkunnie. 
A Matthurie man must marry a Kirarawa woman, and not 
only this, but a man of one totem must marry a woman of 
another totem, certain totems being confined to each of the 
ext^amous classes. Thus a dingo marries a waterhen, a 
cicada a crow, an emu a rat, a wild turkey a cloud, a swan 
a pelican, and so on.^ 

The organisation can be shown as represented in the 
following table, only a limited number of the totems being 
indicated : — 

Wild (luck (Inyarric). 
I Cicada (Wulninimera). 
' ' Dingo (Matla). 

Emu (Warraguti). 
I Wild tuiltey (Kalathurra). 

Black s' 

n (Guli), &c. 

I Cloud {Kurara). 
I Carpel snake (Wabma). 

Lace IJEard (Capirie). 

Pelican (Urantha). 
I i Water hen (Kiitnichilli). 
' Crow (Wakaia). Src, 

Descent is counted through the mother, both as regards 
class and totem, so that we can represent marriage and 
descent as counted in the Urabunna tribe by the following 


' The tolemic systems of the tiil>es inhabiting the area of country which ci 
in Lake Eyre anil of which the Urabunna is one require further 
We have not been able to acquire such detailed information with r^ard tc 
tribe as we have in the case of the Arunta. The most difficult point todetennini' 
is exactly what totems intermarry. Whilst the intermarriage of the lolems now 
described is correct so far as it goes, further investigation may reveal the fiicl that, 
for example, a inan of Ibe crow loteni may inatry tt'omen of other totems besides 
the cicada. This, however, will not affect the validity of the tables and genea- 
Ic^ical tree now given. The fiindamental fact is that men of one moiety of the 
trilx; must marry women of the other. 



diagram, in which the letter f indicates the female and the 
letter m the male. 

■n. Dingo Matthurie 

f. Water-hen Kirsrawa 
I " 
m. Water-hen Kirarawa 

f. Dingo Matlhurie ni. Dingo Matthurie 

ID. or r. Dingo Matthurie m. or f. Water-hen Kirarawa 

There are still further restrictions to marriage than those 
which merely enact that a dingo man must marry a water- 
hen woman, and it is here that we are brought into contact 
with the terms of relationship. Enquiring into case after 
case you meet constantly, in this matter of restriction in 
regard to marriage, with the reply that though a particular 
woman belongs to the right totem into which a man must 
marrj', yet there is a further restriction preventing marriage 
in this particular case. For example, not every dingo may 
marry a particular water-hen woman. To a dingo man all 
water-hen women are divided into four groups, the members 
of which respectively stand to him in the relationship of 
(i) Nowillie or father's sisters ; (2) 5/Vi^a, children or brothers' 
children ; (3) Apillia, mother's younger brothers' daughters ; 
(4) Nupa, mother's elder brothers' daughters. It will of course 
be understood that a mother's brother's child is identical with 
a father's sister's child, and that the fathers and brothers may 
be either blood or tribal. 

We can. amongst the individuals named, distinguish women 
of three different levels of generation ; the Nowillie belong 
to that of the father and to still older generations ; the Biaka 
to younger ones and the Apillia and Nupa to the same gene- 
ration as the individual concerned. A man can only marry 
women who stand to him in the relationship of Nupa, that is, 
are the children of his mother's elder brothers blood or tribal, 
or, what is the same thing, of his father's elder si-sters. The • 
mother of a man's Nupa is Nowillie to him, and any woman 
of that relationship is Mura to him and he to her, and thej' 
must not speak to one another. In connection with this it 



must be remembered that it is not necessary for the woman 
to actually have a daughter for her to be Nowillie and so 
Mura to the man, the very fact that she was bom a sister 
of his father places her in this relationship. In the same way 
Nupa, the term applied to a woman with whom it is lawful 
for a man to have marital relations, and which is thus the 
term applied to a wife, cannot, strictly speaking, be regarded 
as at all the equivalent of the latter term. It is applied indis- 
criminately by a dingo man to each and every member of a 
group of water-hen women with one or more of whom he 
may perhaps actually have marital relations, but with any 
one of whom it is lawful and possible for him to do so. When 
we say possible for him to have such marital relations, we 
mean that any one of those women might be assigned to him, 
as they all, in fact, stand to him in the relationship of potential 

The word Nupa is without any exception applied indis- 
criminately by men of a particular group to women of another 
group, and vice versa, and simply implies a member of a group 
of possible wives or husbands as the case may be. 

While this is so, it must be remembered that in actual prac- 
tice each individual man has one or perhaps two of these 
Nupa women who are specially attached to himself and live 
with him in his own camp. In addition to them, however, 
each man has certain Nupa women, beyond the limited 
number just referred to, with whom he stands in the rela- 
tionship of Piraungaru} To women who are the Piraungani 
of a man (the term is a reciprocal one), the latter has access 
under certain conditions, so that they may be considered as 
accessory wives. 

The result is that in the Urabunna tribe every woman is 
the special Nupa of one particular man, but at the same time 
he has no exclusive right to her as she is the Piraungaru of 
certain other men who also have the right of access to her. 
Looked at from the point of view of the man his Pinmngaru 
are a limited number of the women who stand in the relation- 
ship of Nupa to him. There is no such thing as one man 

' The exact equivalent of the llrautu of the Dieri tribe. Cf. Ilowitl, Tram. 
K. S. Vifl., vol. i., pi. ii., :889, |i. 96. 



having the exclusive right to one woman ; the elder brothers, 
or Nutkie, of the latter, in whose hands the matter lies, will 
give one man a preferential right, but at the same time they 
will give other men of the same group a secondary right to 
her. Individual marriage does not exist either in name or 
in practice in the Urabunna tribe. 

The initiation in regard to establishing the relationship of 
Piraungaru between a man and a woman must be taken by 
the elder brothers, but the arrangement must receive the sanc- 
tion of the old men of the group before it can take effect. As 
a matter of actual practice, this relationship is usually estab- 
lished at times when considerable numbers of the tribe are 
gathered together to perform important ceremonies, and when 
these and other matters of importance which require the con- 
sideration of the old men are discussed and settled. The 
number of a man's Piraungaru depend entirely upon the 
measure of his power and popularity ; if he be what is called 
" &rku" a word which implies much the same as our word 
"influential," he will have a considerable number, if he be 
ins^ificant or unpopular, then he will meet with scanty 

A woman may be Piraungaru to a number of men, and' as 
a general rule men and women who are Piraungaru to one 
another are to be found living grouped together. A man 
may always lend his wife, that is, the woman to whom he 
has the first right, to another man, provided always he be 
her Nupa, without the relationship ol Piraungaru existing 
between the two, but unless this relationship exists, no man 
has any right of access to a woman. Occasionally, but 
rarely, it happens that a man attempts to prevent his wife's 
Piraungaru from having access to her, but this leads to a 
fight and the husband is looked upon as churlish. When 
visiting distant groups where, in all likelihood, the husband 
has no Piraungaru, it is customary for other men of his own 
class to offer him the loan of one or more of their Nupa 
women, and a man, besides lending a woman over whom he 
has the first right, will also lend his Piraungaru. 

All the children of women who are Nupa to any man, 
whether they are his special Nupas, or Piraungaru^ or Nupa 



women with whom he has no marital relations, call him Nia, 
and he calls them Biaka. Whilst naturally there is a closer 
tie between a man and the children of the women who 
habitually live in camp with him, still there is no name to 
distinguish between the children of his special Nupa and 
those of any other woman to whom he is Nupa, but with 
whom he has no marital relations. All Biaka, or children of 
men who are at the same level in the generation and belong 
to the same class and totem, are regarded as the common 
children of these men, and in the same way the latter are 
regarded collectively by the Biaka as their Nia. 

It will thus be seen that in the Urabunna tribe we have 
apparently an organisation closely similar to that described 
by Mr. Howitt as occurring in the Dieri tribe with which it 
is associated locally. It will also be evident that in both 
these tribes there is what can only be described as a modified 
form of group-marriage, the important features of which may 
be summarised as follows. We have : — ■ 

(i) A group of men all of whom belong to one moiety of 
the tribe who are regarded as the Nupas or possible husbands 
of a group of women who belong to the other moiety of the 

{2) One or more women specially allotted to one particular 
man, each standing in the relationship of Nupa to the other, 
but no man having exclusive right to any one woman, only a 
preferential right. 

(3) A group of men who stand in the relationship of 
Piraungaru to a group of women selected from amongst 
those to whom they are Nupa. In other words, a group of 
women of a certain designation are actually the wives of a 
group of men of another designation. 

A curious feature in the social organisation of the Urabunna 
tribe is the restriction in accordance with which a man's wife 
must belong to what we may call the senior side of the tribe 
so far as he himself is concerned. He is only Nupa to the 
female children of the elder brothers of his mother, or what 
is exactly the same thing, to those of the elder sisters of his 
father. It follows from this that a woman is only Nupa to 
men on the junior side of the tribe so far as she is concerned. 



This marked distinction between elder and younger brothers 
and sisters is a striking feature, not only in tribes such as the 
Urabunna, in which descent is counted in the female line, but 
also in tribes such as the Arunta in which descent is counted 
in the male line. 

If we draw up a genealogical tree in the Urabunna tribe, 
placing the elder members on the left side and the younger 
members on the right side, then every woman's JVupa lies to 
the right, and every man's to the left side of his or her position 
in the genealogical tree. 

The following table gives the terms of relationship as they 
exist amongst the Urabunna tritje. It will be seen that we 
have given three columns of names, (i) the native names, (2) . 
the exact equivalent of the native names in our English 
terms, and (3) the English terms included wholly or partly 
in the native terms. In this way it will be seen, for example, 
that there are no native words at all equivalent to our 
English terms cousin, uncle, aunt, nephew ; in fact, as we 
have said before, unless all ideas of terms of relationship as 
counted amongst ourselves be abandoned, it is useless to try 
and understand the native terms. No native can understand 
how we can possibly apply the same term cousin to children 
of the brothers of a father and at the same time to children 
of the sisters of a father. In the same way it will be seen 
that a brother's children are perfectly distinct from those of a 
sister ; if 1 am, say a crow man, then my brothers' children 
are bom cicadas and my sisters' children are bom crows. As 
my own children are cicadas, I naturally have a term in com- 
mon between them and the cicada offspring of my brothers, 
and quite a different term for the crow children of my sisters. 

It will be seen on examining the table that no man or 
woman applies the same name to, for example, both a crow 
and a cicada, and further still, that all the names are applied 
to groups of individuals all of whom stand in a definite 
relationship to the individual by whom the term is used. 

In addition to the table we have also drawn up a genealo- 
gical tree which will perhaps aid in explaining what is 
without doubt a somewhat intricate subject, and in the 
table we have numbered each individual, and taking a par- 
ticular individual have represented in tabular form the names 



which he applies to the other members of the group so as to 
include and illustrate all the various terms as used.^ 
Table of Relationship Terms. Urabunna Tribe. 

Native Terms. 


English Terms, I'l, 

efuded mhelfy or 

partly in the 

Native Terms. 








M other. 

Actual Relaticinship expressed in 
English Terms. 

Father's brothers, blood and tribal 
Mother's brothers, blood and tribal 
Wife's bther 
Husband's father 

Mother's elder sisters, blood and tribal 
Mother's j'ounger sisters, blood and tribal 
Father's sisteis, blood and tribal 

Grandmotheron&ther'sside,b1oodand tribal Grandmother. 
Husband's mother Mother-in-law- 

Wife's mother 

Sons Son. 

Daughlers Dauchter. 

Brother's sons and daughters, blood and tribal Nephew and nieci 
Thidnurta Sister's sons and daughters, blood and tribal Nephew and niece. 
Nnthle Elder brother Brother. 

Father's elder brothers' sons, blood and tribal Cousin. 
Elder sisters Sister. 

Father's elder brothers' daughters, blood and Cousin. 

Younger brothers Brother. 

Father's founger brothers' sons, blood and Cousin. 

Younger sisters Sister, 

Father's younger brothers' daughters, blood Cousin. 

and tribal 
Father's younger sisters' sons Cousin. 

Sisters' husbands, blood and tribal Brolher-in-law. 

Wife's brother 

Fatlier's elder sisters' daughters, blood and Cousin- 
Wife Wife. 

Husband Husband. 

Husband's sisters, blood and tribal Sister- in -law. 

Father's younger sisters' daughters Cousin. 

Grandfather on Other's side, blood and tribal Grandfather. 
Grandmother on mother's side, blood and Grandmother. 

Son's children Grandchildren- 

Grandfather on mother's side, blood and Grandfather. 

Daughter's children. Grandchildren. 

> In the table w. 
hat every cicada c 
o the Kiiarawa. 

have only indicated the totemic name : it will be understood 
an and woman belongs to the Matthurie class, and every crow 



L / 


If we take the man numbered 2$ in the genealc^ical tree 
we shall find that he applies the following names to the 
various individuals represented. It will be noticed that in 
connection with the woman numbered 14 we have given a 
separate branch line of descent, so as to be able to indicate 
the grand-parents on the maternal as well as the paternal 

The man numbered 25 applies the following names to the 
various individuals : — 


3. 5. 9. 17- 

Thunlhi, „ , 

a. 4. 55- 56- 


6, 7, 8, 18. 


10, 12. 16. 


13. 14- 



19. 30. 3*. 37. 4a 


3'. 33. 39- 


20. 36, 38. 






26, 27, 28, 29, 34. 3S- 


41,42,45. 46, 47,48. 

Thidniura, „ , 

43, 44, 49, 50. 51. 5^ 

It may perhaps be wondered how the natives themselves 
become acquainted with what is to the average white man so 
apparently elaborate and even, at first sight, complicated, a 
scheme. In the first place it is not in reality so complicated 
as it appears, and if we lay aside all pre-conceived ideas of 
relationship and remember that the terms are constantly 
being used by the natives who live, so to speak, surrounded 
with object lessons in the form of the members of the local 
group, then the difficulty lai^ely vanishes. Another thing to 
be remembered is that the relationship of one native to 
another is one of the most important points with which each 
individual must be acquainted. There are certain customs 
which are enforced by long usage and according to which 

' That is supposing 13 to be an elder sister, and 11 and 15 youngei siMcrs 
^Uood or tribal) of 14. 

' That is if 39 be a daughter of a younger brother of 14. 
' 36 is r^arded as the daughter of an elder sister of 14. 



men and women of particular degrees of relationship may- 
alone have marital relations, or may not speak to one another, 
or according to which one individual has to do certain things 
for another, such as providing the latter with food or with 
hair, as the case may be, and any breach of these customs is. 
severely punished. The elder men of each group very 
carefully keep alive these customs, many of which are of 
considerable benefit to themselves, and when, as at any- 
important ceremony, different groups are gathered together, 
then matters such as these are discussed, and in this way a 
knowledge of the various relationships is both gained and 
kept alive. When a man comes from a distant group, unless 
he be well known to the group into which he has come, the 
old men talk the matter over and very soon decide as to his 

It sometimes happens, in fact not infrequently, that a man 
from the neighbouring Arunta tribe comes to live amongst 
the Urabunna. In the former where it adjoins the latter 
there are four sub-classes, viz., Bulthara and Panunga, Kumara, 
and Purula, and in addition descent is counted in the male 
line Accordingly the men of the Bulthara and Purula 
classes are regarded as the equivalents of the Matthurie 
moiety of the Urabunna tribe, and those of the Panunga and 
Kumara classes as the equivalents of the Kirarawa. In just 
the same way a Matthurie man going into the Arunta tribe 
becomes either a Bulthara or Purula, and a Kirarawa man 
becomes either a Panunga or a Kumara man. Which of the 
two a Matthurie man belongs to, is decided by the old men 
of the group into which he goes. Sometimes a man will take 
up his abode permanently, or for a long time, amongst the 
strange tribe, in which case, if it be decided, for example, that 
he is a Bulthara, then his children will be bom Panunga, that 
is they belong to his own adopted moiety. He has, of course, 
to marry a Kumara woman, or if he be already provided with 
a wife, then she is regarded as a Kumara, and if he goes back 
into his own tribe then his wife is regarded as a Kirarawa 
and the children also take the same name. 

This deliberate change in the grouping of the classes and 
sub-classes so as to make them fit in with the maternal line 



of descent or with the paternal, as the case may be, will be 
more easily understood from the accompanying table. 

Arunla. Urabuima arrangement /if tie Aruiila suh-elams. 

The working out of this with the result that the children 
belong to tl>e right moiety of the tribe into which the man 
has gone may be rendered clear by taking one or two 
particular examples. 

Suppose that a Matthurie man goes into the Arunta tribe, 
then he is told by the old men of the group into which he has 
gone that he is, say, a Bulthara. Accordingly he marries a 
Kumara woman (or if, which is not very likely, he has 
brought a woman with him, then she is regarded as a 
Kumara) and his children will be Panunga, or, in other words, 
pass into the father's moiety as the sub-classes are arranged 
in the Arunta, but not into that of the mother as they are 
arranged amongst the Urabunna. 

Again, suppose a Purula man from the Arunta tribe takes 
up his abode amongst the Urabunna. He becomes a Matthurie, 
and as such must marry a Kirarawa (or if married his wife is 
regarded as such). His children are Kirarawa, which includes 
the sub-class Kumara into which they would have passed in 
the Arunta tribe, and to which they will belong if ever they 
go into the latter. 

These are not merely hypothetical cases but are, in the 
district where the two tribes come in contact with one another, 
of by no means infrequent occurrence ; and, without laying 
undue stress upon the matter, this deliberate changing of the 
method of grouping the sub-classes so as to allow of the descent 
being counted in either the male or female line according to 
the necessity of the case, is of interest as indicating the fact 
that the natives are quite capable of thinking such things out 
for •■themselves. It is indeed not perhaps without a certain 
su^estiveness in regard to the difficult question of how a 
change in the line of descent might possibly be brought 



We may now turn to the consideration of the Arunta tribe 
in which descent is counted in the male line, and we may 
regard the Arunta as typical of the large group of tribes 
inhabiting the centre of the continent from Lake Eyre in the 
south to near Port Darwin in the north, in which descent is thus 
counted. The tribes with the classificatory systems of which 
we have knowledge are the Arunta, llpirra, Iliaura, Kaitish, 
Walpari, Warramunga, Waagai, and Bingongina, which occupy 
a range of country extending from the latitude of Macumba 
River in the south to about that of Powell's Creek in the 
north, that is over an area measuring from north to south some 
seven hundred and seventy miles (Fig. i). 

In regard to the organisation of the Arunta tribe, with 
which we shall now deal in detail, it may at the outset be 
mentioned that the existence of four sub-classes in the 
southern part of the tribe, and of eight in the northern, appears 
at first sight to indicate that in the latter the organisation is 
more complex. In reality, though without having distinct 
names applied to them, each one of the four sub-classes met 
with in the south is actually divided into two. The four 
are Panunga and Bulthara, Purula and Kumara ; the first 
two forming one moiety of the tribe, and the latter two 
forming another. In camp, for example, the Panunga and 
Bulthara always camp together separated from the Purula 
and Kumara by some natural feature such as a creek. The 
Panunga and Bulthara speak of themselves as Nakrakia, and 
of the Purula and Kumara as Mulyanuka — the terms being 
reciprocal. Further details with regard to this, and evidence 
of this division into two moieties, are given in connection with 
the discussion of the Churinga and totems, and in the 
account of the Engwura. 

The marriage system is, in broad outline, omitting at 
present certain details which will be referred to shortly, as 
follows. A Bulthara man marries a Kumara woman and 
their children are Panunga ; a Purula man marries a Panunga 
woman and their children are Kumara ; a Panunga man 
marries a Purula woman and their children are Bulthara; a 
Kumara man marries a Bulthara woman and their children 
are Purula. 



This may be graphically expressed following Mr. Howitfs 
plan (as already done by Dr. Stirling) in the following way.i 

Mala. Fetuaies. 

Fanunga-^, ^:^_ - ..^ Kumaia 

Bulthara*' « ~ -♦Punila 

Puruta -_■« — — '^—^ Bulthant 


In these diagrams the double arrow indicates the marriage . 
connections and the single ones point to the name of the class 
of the children. 

As a matter of fact these diagrams as they stand, though 
perfectly correct in stating, for example, that a Panunga man 
marries a Purula woman, are incomplete in that they do not 
show the important point that to a Panunga man the Purula 
women are divided into two groups the members of one of 
whom stand to him in the relationship of Unawa whom he may 
marry, while the members of the other stand in the relationship 
of Unkulla whom he may not marry. This fact is one of very 
considerable impc»tance. Each of the four sub-classes is thus 
divided into two, the members of which stand respectively 
in the relationship of Ipmunna to each other. We can 
represent this graphically as follows, taking, for the sake of 
simplicity, only two sub-classes, the divisions of one being 
represented by the letters A and B, and of the other by the 
letters C and D. 

Sui-class. Dtvisien. Division. Sub-clait, 

Panunga \^ _^ ^ j Purula 

A stands in the relationship of Unawa to C, Ipmunna to B, 
and Unkulla to D. In other words a woman who is Unkulla 
to me is Ipmunna to my wife. All women of group C (myself 
belonging to A), my wife calls sisters — Ungaraitcha if they 
be elder sisters, and Itia if they be younger sisters ; and all of 

* An outline of the organisation of the Aninta tribe has been given by Messrs. 
Stilling and Gillen in the /teferi 0/ tki Ham Mxf*dili9tt ta Ctnlral Auslralia, 



them stand in the relationship of Unawa to myself ; but the 
other Purula women whom my wife calls Ipmunna are 
Unkulla to me and I may not marry them. 

It is somewhat perplexing after learning that a Panunga 
man must marry a Purula woman to meet with the statement, 
when inquiring into particular cases, that a given Panunga 
man must not marry a particular Purula woman, but in the 
northern part of the tribe matters are simplified by the 
existence of distinct names for the two groups ; the relation- 
ship term of Ipmunna still exists, but if 1 am, for example, a 
Panunga man, then all my Ipmunna men and women are 
designated by the term Uknaria, and in the following tables 
the eight divisions are laid down, and it will be noticed that 
the old name is used for one-half and a new name adopted 
for the other. 

The double arrows indicate the marriage connections. 

This division into eight has been adopted (or rather the 
names for the four new divisions have been), in recent times 
by the Arunta tribe from the Ilpirra tribe which adjoins the 
former on the north, and the use of them is, at the present 
time, spreading southwards. At the Engwura ceremony 
which we witnessed men of the Ilpirra tribe were present, as 
well as a large number of others from the southern part of the 
Arunta amongst whom the four new names are not yet in use. 

We have found the following table of considerable service 
to ourselves in working as, by its means, the various relation- 
ships fall into regular arrangement and can be readily 



: AppungerU 













This table was drawn up in the first instance in order to 
show the marriage relationships and the divisions into which 



the children pass. Thus, reading across the page, men of the 
sub-classes shown in column i must marry women of the 
sub-classes shown in column 2. For example, a Panunga 
man marries a Furula woman, an Uknaria man an Ungalla 
woman, and so on. Column 3 in the same way indicates 
their children, those of a Panunga man and a Purula woman 
being Appungerta, those of an Uknaria man and an Ungalla 
woman being Bulthara, 8ec. In the same way if a man of 
one of the sub-classes in column 2 marries a woman in one 
of those in column i, then their children are as represented 
in column 4. That is, a Purula man marries a Panunga 
woman and their children are Kumara, and so on. 

When, however, we came to deal with the various terms of 
relationship used in the tribe, we found that they also fell 
into orderly arrangement in the table, and could be easily 
shown by means of it 

It will be seen from the table that, as compared with the 
Urabunna tribe, marriage appears to be very much more 
restricted, because a man may only marry a woman who 
belongs to one of eight divisions into which the whole is 
divided. In the Arunta tribe, however, as will be described 
in the chapter dealing with the totems, there is, unlike most 
Australian tribes, no restriction whatever, so far as the totems 
are concerned. It may therefore be, perhaps, a matter of doubt 
as to how far the totems of the Aninta are the exact equivalents 
of those yet described as existing amongst other Australian 
tribes. Every Arunta native thinks that his ancestor in the 
Alcheringa ^ was the descendant of the animal or plant, or at 
least was immediately associated with the object the name of 
which he bears as his totemic name. In many Australian 
tribes it seems to be a general custom that a man must 
not eat or injure his totem, whereas amongst the Arunta 
there are special occasions on which the totem is eaten, 
and there is no rule absolutely forbidding the eating of 
the totem at other times, though it is clearly understood 
that it must only be partaken of very sparingly. How- 
ever, though the totems of the Arunta are in certain respects 

' The Alcheringa is Ihe name applied to the hi distant past with which the 
cMliest tnuliticHu of the tribe deal. 



unlike those yetdescribed in other Australian tribes, still there 
can be no doubt but that they are correctly designated by 
this name, the most important feature in which they differ 
from those of other parts of Australia being that they have 
no reference to customs concerning marriage. 

In the Arunta tribe, unlike the Urabunna, there is, as soon 
as marriage has taken place, a restriction, except on certain 
special occasions which are subsequently described, of a 
particular woman to a particular man, or rather, a man has 
an exclusive right to one special woman though he may of 
his own free will lend her to other men. 

Despite this fact, there is no term applied to a woman who 
is thus the peculiar property of one man, the woman is 
simply spoken of as Unawa to the man in just the same way 
in which all the other women are who belong to the group 
from which the man's wife must come. The terms of 
relationship are not individual terms, but, just as in the 
Urabunna and other tribes in some of which we have a form of 
group marriage existing as an actual institution at the present 
day,the termsaregroup terms. Totake an example — a Panunga 
man will have some special woman allotted to him as an 
individual wife, but the only term which he applies to her is 
Unawa, and that term he also applies to all the women of her 
group, each of whom might lawfully have been allotted to 
him. She is one out of a group of potential wives. When, 
again, a man lends his wife, he only does so to a member of 
his own group, that is to a man to whom, without having 
been allotted to him, the woman stands in the relationship of 
Unawa just as she does to the man to whom she has been 
allotted. In the southern part of the tribe, where only the four 
divisions exist, a Panunga man will not lend his Unawa to a 
man who belongs to the half of the Panunga to which he 
himself does not belong, that is he will not lend her to an 
Ipmunna man but only to men who are Okilia or IHa to him ; 
and in the same way he will only have lent to him a Purula 
woman to whom he is Unawa and not one to whom he is 
UnkuUa. In the northern division the original Panunga is 
divided up into Panunga and Ungalla, and here a Panunga 
man only lends his wife to a Panunga, an Ungalla to an 



Ungalla, and so on. In this northern part in must be remem- 
bered that the Panunga men are the exact equivalents to 
another Panunga man of the Okilia and Itia, that is the tribal 
brothers of the southern part, while the Ungalla correspond 
to the Ipmunna. 

The same group terms are applied in all other cases. 
Thus a man calls his own children Allira, and applies the 
same term to all his blood and tribal brothers' children, while 
all his sisters' children are Umba. If, again, I am a Panunga 
man, then my wife is Purula, and her actual father is a 
Kumara man. Not only do I call this particular man 
Ikuntera or father-in-law, but, where the eight divisions are in 
force, I apply the same name to all Kumara men. They are 
one and all the fathers 'of women whom it is lawful for me to 

That this group relationship is actually recognised is made 
clear by a variety of facts. If, for example, one of my 
Ikuntera dies, it is my duty to cut my shoulders with a stone 
knife as a mark of sorrow. If I neglect to do this, then any 
one of the men who are Ikuntera to me has the right to take 
away my wife and give her to some other man to whom she 
is Unawa. I have not only, supposing it to be the actual 
father of my wife who has died, neglected to do my duty to 
him, but I have offended the group collectively, and any 
member of that group may punish me. Again, if I am out 
hunting and have caught game, and while carrying this home 
to my camp I chance to meet a man standing to me in the 
relationship of Ikuntera, I should at once have to drop the 
food, which, from the fact of its having been seen by any one 
member of that group, has become tabu to me. 

In just the same way amongst the women we see clear 
instances of customs founded on the existence of group 
relationship. When a child dies not only does the actual 
Mia, or mother, cut herself, but all the sisters of the latter, 
who also are Mia to the dead child, cut themselves. All 
women call their own children Umba, and apply precisely the 
same term to the children of their sisters, blood and tribal. 

The tables which follow give the terms of relationship 
existing amongst the Arunta, Luritcha, Kaitish and Warra- 




munga, and, in the case of the Arunta, we have drawn up a 
genealogical tree and, taking a man and his alloted Unawa, 
have arranged in tabular form the various terms which they 
respectively apply to other individuals, whose relationship to 
them can be seen on the tree. 

For the purpose of comparison we have made the genealo- 
gical tree identical with that used in the case of the Urabunna 
tribe, the individuals being numbered alike on both trees. 

Table of Relationship Terms, Arunta Tribe. 

English Tirmt, in- 
cliidtd vihsUy er 

partly in lh£ 
Nalht Ttrnu. 


Mother's btolhers, blood and Iribal Uncle. 

^^otheI Mother. 

Mother's sisters, blood and tribal Aunt. 

Father's sisleis, blood and tribal Aunt. 

Sons Son. 

Daughters Daughter. 

Sons and daughters of brothers, blood Nepfiewand niece, 
and tribal 

Allira (woman 

Utnba (man 

Uniba (womai 


Itia (Witia) 
Itia (Quitia) 

Sons and <1ai^hters of brothers, blood Nephew ar 

and tribal 

Sons and daughtets of sisters, blood and Nephew an 

Sons and daughters Son. 

Sons and daughters of sisters, blood and naucbler. 

tribal Nephew ar 

Elder brothers Brother. 

Sons of father's elder brothers, blood and Cousin. 


Younger brothers Brother. 

Sons of father's younger brothers, blood Cousin. 

and tribal 

Younger sisters 

Father's younger brothers' daughters 
blood and tnlHl 


: and daughters. Cousin. 

:, bloixl and tribal 



Native Term!. 

Uoawti (woman 

Umtnrna (male 


Ilchella (lemale 


Ikunlera (man 

Muia (man 


English Terms, 
included wholly 
or partly in the 
Native Tenns. 



Biothei- in-law. 

i, blood and tribal Sister-in-law. 

blood and Cousin. 

Grandfather, Other's side Grandfather. 
Grandchild (son's child) Grandchild. 
Grandfather, mother's side Grandfather. 
Grandchild (daughter's child) Grandchild- 
Grandmother, father's side Grandmother. 
Grandchild Grandchild. 
Grandmother, mother's side Grandmother. 
Wife's father, blood and tribal Father-in-law. 

Wife's mother, binod and tribal Mother-in-law. 

Wife's mother's brothers, blood and 


Husband's mothers, blood and tribal Mother-in-law. 
Husband's mother's brothers, blood and 


n Husband's father, blood and tribal Falher-in-law. 

Table of Relationship Terms. Luritcha Tribe. 




Mother's brothers, blood and tribal 


Mother's sisters, blood and tribal 

Father's dsteis, blood and tribal 


Brother's sons, blood and tribal 


Brother's daughters, blood and tribal 



Elder brother 
Father's elder brothers' s 



Naiitit Termi. 





Etigliih 1 

Younger brother 

Father's younger hrothers* sons, blood 

and tribal 
Younger sister 
Father's younger brothers' daughters, 

blood and tribal 

Elder sister 

Father's elder brothers' daughters, blood ' 
and tribal 

Mother's brothers' sons, blood and tribal 

i, blood and 


Husband's brothers, blood and tribal 


Wife's mtets, blood and tribal 

English Ttrms, 
inehidid wholly 
er parlfy in Ihe 
Nativt Terms. 













Husband's mother Mother-in-law. 

Husband's mother's sisters, blood and 

Wife's mother Molher-in-law, 

Wife's mother's sisters, blood and tribal 
Daughter's husl)and Son-in-law. 

Daughter's husband's brothers, blood 
and tribal 



Table of Relationship Terms. Kaitish Tribe. 

English Terms, 

imludtd wholly er 

partly in the 

Nativt Terms. 



Ifalitx Terms. 





Ilchelii (woini 



Mother's brothers, blood and tribal 

!, blood and tribal 


Brother's sons and daughtej 

Sisters' sons and daughters 

Younger brother 

Father's younger brothers' sons 

Father's younger brothers' daughters 

Elder sister 

Father's elder brothers' daughters 

Mother's brothers' daughters 

Mother's brothers' sons. 



Husband's brothers, blood and tribal 

Sister's husband 

Wife's brothers, blood and tribal 

Husband's sister 

Father's iters' daughters 

Grandmother, father's side 
Grandmother's sisters, father's ride 
Grandmother, mother's side 
Grandmother's sisters, mother's side 



Nephew and nieci 
Nephew and nieo 







' Father's elder brothers t 

* Mother's elder sisters ar 

e Akaurli aniaurs, youi^r brothers are Akaurli 
Arungwa apmarla, younger sisters are Arungwa 



Wife's fether 
Wife's father's biothers 
Huslrand's father 
Husband's father's brothers 
Husband's molher 
Husband's mother's sisteis. 
Wife's mother 
Wife's mother's sisters. 

English Terms, 
included wkelfy 
or partly in Ike 
Native Terms. 

Fat her -in -law. 

Table of Relationship Terms. Warramunga Tribe. 

(ianipatcha ' 


Father's brothers, blood and tribal 




htoiher's brothers, blood and tribal 


Kumandi ' 


Mother's sisters, blood and tribal 




Father's sisters, blood and tribal 




Brother's sons and daughters 



Nephew and niece. 


Sister's Son or daughter 

Nephew and niece. 


Elder brother 

Father's elder brother's sons 



Younger brother 

Father's younger brother's sons. 

Younger sister 

Father's younger brother's daughters 




Elder sister 

Father's elder brother's daughters 



Mother's brothers' sons or dai^hlers 




HusUnd's brothers, blood and tribal 


Wife's sisters. Wood and tribal 



Sister's husband 

Wife's brothers, blood and tribal 

Husband's sisters, blood and tribal 



Lina (womati 

Father's sisters' daughters 

Grandfather, father's side 
Grandfather's brothers, father's side 


' Father's elder brothers are Gam[Kitcha babati, younger brothers are Gampatcha 

' Mother's elder sisters are Kumandi bithara, younger sisters are Kumaiidi 



NatiDt Terms. 

English Terms, 
included whclly 
or partly in lit 
Native Terms. 


Wife's father 
Wife's father's brothers 
Husband's father 
Husband's bthei's brothers 
Husband's mother 
Husband's mother's sisters 
Wife's mother 
Wife's mother's sisters 

Mother -in 

If we take the man numtwred 25 on the genealogical tree, 
which, it may be said, applies to both the Ilpirra and Arunta 
tribes, with slight variation in the names, we shall find that 
he applies the following names to the individuals indicated 
by their respective numbers. It will be noticed that two 
small branch lines are added to show descent in the maternal 

The man numbered 25 applies the following names to the 
various individuals : — 

Anmga, to the 




6. 7, 8. 


5, 9- 


a, SS. 56 


b, c J4. 3S- 


d. 19. 20, 30, 31. 



".43.44.49. 50- 


13. 14. IS. Si- 


ll, 16, 52. 


17, 18. 


ii, 23- 

22, 24- 


26, 28. 


2?. 29- 





33, 37. 40- 



The woman numbered 38 applies the following names to 
the various individuals : — 

Anii^, lo the individuals numbered 4. 












1, 19. », 30, 31. SS. 56- 

6, 7, 8. 

5, 9,41, 4*. 45-46. 47.48- 


33. 39. 

4J, 44. 49. SO- 

21, 23, 25, 26, X 


22, 24, 27, 39. 

A comparison of the terms of relationship here set forth 
with those in use amongst other tribes, which have been 
described by Messrs, Howitt and Fison, and more recently 
and in most valuable detail by Mr. Roth, will serve to show 
how widely a similar series of terms is in use amongst the 
various Australian tribes. 

We will further exemplify the system by taking a man of 
one particular group and descrih>e in detail the various relation- 
ships which exist between him and other members of the 
tribe. These and all details given have been derived from 
various individuals and families, and have been corroborated 
time after time. 

After ascertaining the various relationships we found that 
they could be represented graphically and in orderly arrange- 
ment by means of the table already employed, and, as we 
have found this table of the greatest service to ourselves in 
dealing with this somewhat intricate subject, we will make 
use of it here. 



/Panunga /Purula Appungerta Kumara 

\ Uknaria \ Ungalla BuUhani Umbilchana 

{Butlhara TKumaia Uknaria Purula 

Appungerta \UnibiCchaiia Panunga Ui^lla 

The brackets signify groups, the members of which are 
mutually Jpmunna to each other. 

Column 3 are the children of men of column i and of 
women of column 2. This applies to groups on the same 
horizontal line in the table. Thus an Appungerta is the 
child of a Panunga man and a Purula woman ; a Panunga is 
the child of an Appungerta man and an Umbttchana woman. 
The same remark applies to all the other relationships 
indicated ; thus a Panunga man is Gammona to a Kumara. 

Column 4 are the children of men of column 2 and of 
the women of column i. 

A man of column l is Unawa to a woman of column 2 
and vice versa, and Umbima to a man of column 2. A 
woman of column 2 is Intinga to a woman of column l, and 
vice versa. 

Column 1 contains men who are Gammona of men and 
women of column 4. 

Column 4 contains men who are Ikuntera or Umba of 
men, and Nimmera of women, of column i. 

Column 2 contains men who are Gammona of men and 
women of column 3. 

Column 3 contains men who are Ikuntera or Umba of men, 
and Nimmera of women, of column 2. 

Men and women of columns 3 and 4 stand mutually in the 
relationship of Unkulla or Chimmia. 

Women of columns 3 and 4 stand mutually in the relation- 
ship of Ilckella. 

Table II. 
I as 4 

( Panunga \ Purula Appungerta ( Kumara \ 

\ (Uknaral I Ungalla Bukhara -! fUmhilchanal I 

\ \ Bulthara/ f Kumata Uknaiia I, ^ Purula / r 

I Appungerta J Umbitchana Panunga \ Ungalla J 

In column i the lai^er and smaller brackets on the right 
side indicate the relationship of Uwinna, the overlapping 

G 2 



brackets on the left indicate that of Mura. In column 4 
the reverse holds true, the brackets on the left indicate the 
relationship of Uwinna, and those on the right side that of 

Taking now the case of an individual member of a particular 
group, we may describe as follows the various relationships in 
which he stands with regard to the other members of the 
tribe. We will suppose that this particular individual is an 
Appungerta man living in the northern part of the tribe 
where the division into eight groups exists, and we will 
suppose him to be speaking — 

If I am an Appungerta man then — 

My father is a Panunga. 

All Uknaria are Jpntunna to him and Mura to me — that is, 
I may not speak to them if they be women. The daughters 
of Ungalla men and Uknaria women are Umbitchana and 
Unawa to me — that is, they are women whom I may lawfully 
marry, and one or more of whom are allotted to me as wives. 
The mother of the woman who is allotted to me is my 

The sons of Uknaria women, that is the brothers of my 
Unawa, are Umbima to me ; so that Umbitchana men are 
Umbima to Appungerta men, and vice versa. 

I call my father Oknia. 

All men whom my father calls Okilia, elder brothers, or 
Witia, younger brother, are Panunga, and they are Oknia to 
me. I call his Okilia, Oknia aniaura, and his Itia, Oknia 

My Oknids sisters are Panunga, and they are Uwinna to 
me. That is, Panunga women are Uwinna to Appungerta 

All women whom my wife calls Ungaraitcha^ elder sisters, 
or Quitia, younger sisters, are Umbitchana, and they also are 
Unawa to me. 

All women whom my wife calls Ipmunna are Kumara, and 
they are Unkulla to me. 

Speaking as an Arunta man living in a part where only 
four sub-classes are recognised, all the women of my wife's 
class, who in this case would be Kumara, I myself belonging 



to the Bulthara, are divided into two sets, the members of one 
of whom are Unawa to me, so that I can marrj' them ; while 
the memt>ers of the other are Unkulla, whom I may not 
marry. The latter are Ipmunna to my wife. I can only 
marry a woman who stands in the relationship of daughter to 
the women of the half of my father's class to which he does 
not belong — that is, who are Ipmunna to him. 

My Ipmunna are Bukhara. 

My Unkulla women are Kumara, and they must marry 
Bulthara men, and their children are Mura to me. That is, 
the relationship of Mura arises from the marriage of male 
Ipmunna and female Unkulla. This is an important relation- 
ship, as a Mura woman is the mother of my wife. 

My Umbima are Umbitchana men, who are the sons of 
Uknaria women — that is, of my female Mura. 

My Ungaraitcka, elder sisters, and Quilia, younger sisters, 
are Appungerta, and are Unawa to my Umbirna, who are 
Umbitchana men. 

The children of my Ungaraitcha and Quitia are Ungalla. 
I call them Allira and they call me Gammona — that is, 
Appungerta men are Gammona to Ungalla men and women. 

My own and my brother's children are Allira to me, and I 
am Oknia to them. My mother is Purula. She calls her 
elder sisters Ungaraitcha and her younger ones Quitia. I 
call them all Mia. That is, Purula women are Mia to 
Appungerta men. Her elder sisters I call Mia apmarta, and 
her younger sisters Mia alkulla} 

Speaking again as an Arunta man only recognising four 
sub-classes the women of the class to which ray mother 
belongs are divided into two groups, the members of one of 
which have the relationship of Mia to me and those of the 
other that of Umba. 

The children of the OkHia of my Oknia, that is my father's 
elder brothers' children, will be Appungerta as I am, and 
they will be according to sex, my Okilia, elder brothers, or 
Ungaraitclta, elder sisters. 

The children of my Oknids Ungaraitcha and of his Quitia 
I In actual pmctice these women are usually simply addressed as Mia. 



are Kumara, and are Vnkulla to me and Ipmunna to my 

The children of my Oknids Okiliaca}\ me Witia or younger 
brother, and the children of my Oknia's Witia call me Okilia, 
and I call them Witia. 

The children of my Okilia and Witia, that is of my elder 
and younger brothers, call me Oknia, just as my own children 
do, and I call them Allira, and they are Panunga. 

The children of my Ungaraitcka and Quilia, that is of my 
sisters, I call Umba, and they are Ungalla. 

That is, once more speaking as an Arunta man recc^jnising 
only four sub-classes, my own and my brother's children go 
into the same sub-class as that to which my father belongs, 
whilst my sister's children go into the sub-class to which my 
mother belongs, but into the half of it to which she does not 
belong. That is, relations whom we class together as nephews 
or nieces as the case may be, are either, in respect to a man, 
Allira, that is, brother's children, or Umba, that is, sister's 
children. It will be noted that the terms Allira and Vntba 
are applied to individuals of both sexes, so that each of them 
includes individuals whom we call nephews or nieces. 

My male Allira's children are Appungerta, and are Arunga 
to me and I to them, the term being a reciprocal one. 

My Allira are Panunga and my Utnba are Ungalla, and 
these two are UnkuUa to each other. 

My Allira call my Ungaraitcka and Quitia, that is, my 
elder and younger sisters, Uwinna. That is, Appungerta 
women are Uwinna to Panunga men and women. 

The children of my female Allira, that is of my daughters, 
are Kumara, and they are Chimmia to me and I to them. 
The term Chimmia expresses the relationship of grandfather 
or grandchild on the mother's side, just as ^& t^xYa Arunga 
expresses the same on the father's side. 

My male Chimmias' male children will be Purula and 
Gammona to me, that is they are the blood and tribal 
brothers of my Mias. 

My male Chimmia£ female children will be Purula and 
Mia to me. 



The children of my female Chimmia are Uknaria and are 
Mura to me, and they are the Mias of my wife. 

My sisters are Appunyerta and the daughters of my 
father's sisters are Kumara, and therefore stand in the 
relationship of Ilchella to each other ; the relationship of 
Ilchella only exists between women. That is, if I am an 
Appungerta man, then my father's sister's sons and daugh- 
ters will be Kumara and Unkulla to me. If I am an 
Appungerta woman then my father's sister's daughters will 
be Ilchella to me. 

My mother's mother is Bulthara and is Ipmunna to me. 

My father's mother is Umbitchana and Aperla to me. 

There are certain differences in the terms used if a woman 
be speaking which may be noted here. Thus, if I am an 
Appungerta woman, then I call my own and my sister's 
children Utnba, but I call my brother's Allira. 

I apply the term Urumpa to brothers and sisters collec- 
tively and also to men and women who are Unkulla to me. 

The sisters of my husband are Umbitchana, and are Intinga 
to me and Unawa to my brothers. 

The daughters of my father's sisters are Kumara and 
Ilchella to me. 

The sons of my father's sisters are Kumara and are Unkulla 
to me. 

My husband's father is Ungalla, and I call him and he calls 
me Nhnmera ; the same term applies to all men whose sons 
are bom Unawa to me. 

There is a special term Tualcha which is applied in the 
case of three particular relationships, or rather is added to 
the usual one in order to show the existence of a special 
connection between the individuals concerned.^ Thus, every 
man calls the members of a particular group by the name of 

' This existence of a special term having regard to the father or mothec uf a 
boiband and wife is probably very general in Australian tribes. It is interesting 
to note that in the tribes studied by Mr. Roth, in which descent is counted in the 
female liae, the terms imply a rektionship between the mother of the huslxind 
and the mother of the wife ; in the tribes to which our account refers, and in 
which descent is counted in the male line, the corresponding term refers to a re- 
lattoiuhip between the lather of the husbajid and (he father of the wife. 



Ikuntera or father-in-law, but the particular one whose daugh- 
ter has actually been assigned to him — whether he has mar- 
ried her or not has nothing to do with the case — he calls 
Ikuntera-tualcha. He may have other wives, but unless the 
mutual agreement was made between his and the girl's father 
that he should have the girl to wife, then the father of the 
latter is not spoken of as Tuaicka. In the same way the 
special Mura woman to whose daughter a man is betrothed 
in his Mura-tualcha, and, lastly, the individual who is Ikuntera- 
tualcha to one man, is Unkulla-tuakha to the father of the 
latter. If, for example, I am an Appungerta man, then my 
Ikuntera-tualcha is an Ungalla man, and he is Unkulla-tuakha 
to my father. 

It will be noticed that distinct names are given to elder 
and younger brothers and elder and younger sisters. Thus 
not only are my elder sisters in blood called Ungaraitcha, 
but the daughters of women whom my mother calls Ungara- 
itcha are Ungaraitcha to me, and those of women whom my 
mother called Quilia are Quitia to me There are, however, 
certain exceptions to this which are of interest as showing 
the influence of counting descent in the male line. Not in- 
frequently two brothers in blood will marry two sisters in 
blood. When this takes place the usual plan is for the elder 
brother to marry the elder sister ; should, however, the elder 
sister marry the younger brother, then seniority is counted 
in the male line. In this case the sons and daughters of the 
younger daughter are the elder brothers and sisters of those 
of the elder sister. 

A curious custom exists with regard to the mutual be- 
haviour of elder and younger sisters and their brothers. A 
man may speak freely to his elder sisters in blood, but those 
who are tribal Ungaraitcha must only be spoken to at a con- 
siderable distance. To younger sisters, blood and tribal, he 
may not speak, or at least, only at such a distance that the 
features are indistinguishable. A man, for example, would 
speak to his tribal Ungaraitcha or elder sister at a distance 
of say forty yards, but he would not address his Quitia or 
younger sisters unless they were at least lOO yards away. 



At night-time Ungaraitcha and Quitia may go to their 
brother's camp, and if he be present they may, sitting in the 
darkness where their faces are not distinguishable, converse 
with his Unawa or wife. We cannot discover any explana- 
tion of this restriction in r^ard to the younger sister ; it can 
hardly be supposed that it has anything to do with the dread 
of anything like incest, else why is there not as strong a 
restriction in the case of the elder sisters ? That there is 
some form of tabu, or, as the Arunta natives call it, ekirinja, 
in regard to the younger sister is shown also by the fact that 
a man can never inherit the Churinga of a deceased younger 
sister, but always inherits, on the other hand, those of a 
deceased elder sister. 

In the tables which follow, we give the intermarrying 
groups of seven other tribes corresponding to those of the 
Arunta tribe ; those of the Ilpirra are identical with the 
latter, which indeed, have been derived in their present form 
from the Ilpirra tribe. In all cases, men of column i marry 
women of column 2, and their children are as arranged in 
column 3 ; men of column 2 marry women of column i, and 
their children are represented in column 4, 

In the case of three tribes, Warramunga, Bingongina and 
Walpari, the system becomes still further complicated by the 
addition of distinct names for females. These names are 
those printed in brackets. In these cases a man of column i, 
marries a woman of column 2, whose name is in' brackets, 
and their children are shown in column 3. In the Warra- 
munga tribe, for example, a Thapanunga man marries a 
Naralu, and their children, if males, are Thapungerta, and if 
females, Napungerta. In the same way a Chupilla man 
marries a Napanunga woman, and their children, if males, 
are Thakomara, if females, Nakomara. 

The tables are arranged so that the equivalent groups in 
the various tribes can be seen at a glance. An Ilpirra 
Panunga man visiting the Waagi is regarded as a Pungarinju, 
and amongst the Bingongina he is a Tchana. An Ilpirra 
Purula woman amongst the IHaura is regarded as an Upilla, 
and amongst the Bingongina as a Nala, and so on. 




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Marriage ceremony in the northem Aiunta and Ilpirral tribes — Ceremony 
in the southern Aninta — Ceremony in the Kaitish, Warramunga, Iliaiira, 
Waagai, Bingongijia, Walpari and Lurilcha tribes— On these occasions 
men standing in a deltnite relalionsbip to the woman have access to 
her — Ceremonies are of the nature of those described by Sir John Lubbock as 
indicative of "eipiation for marriage "—To be regardecf as rudimentary 
customs — Senual license during corrobborees in the Arunta, KaitLsh, Iliaura 
and Warramunga tribes — This is not, strictly speaking, the lending of wives, 
as it is obligatory — Feeling of sexual jealousy not strongly enough developed 
amongst these tribes (o prevent the occurrence of general intercourse or 
lending of wives — The putting of a man to death for wrongful intercourse is 
no proof of the existence of sexual jealousy — Term lending of wives reslricted 
lo private and voluntary lending by one man to anolher — Discussion of 
certain parts of Wcsleimarck's criticism of Ihe theory of promiscuity so far as 
concerns the tribes now dealt with — Customs at marriage and at certain 
other limes afford evidence of the former eiistence of a time when there 
existed wider marital relations than now obtain. 

Whilst under ordinary circumstances in fhe Arunta and 
other tribes one man is only allowed to have marital relations 
with women of a particular class, there are customs which 
allow, at certain times, of a man having such relations with 
women to whom at other times he would not on any account 
be allowed to have access. We find, indeed, that this holds 
true in the case of all the nine different tribes with the marriage 
customs of which we are acquainted, and in which a woman 
becomes the private property of one man. 

The following is the custom amongst the Arunta and Ilpirra 
tribes. When a girl arrives at marriageable age, which is 
usually about fourteen or fifteen, the man to whom she has 
been allotted speaks to his Unkulla men, and they, together 
with men who are Unkulla and Unawa to the girl, but not 



including her future husband, take her out into the bush and 
there perform the operation called Atna-arileka-kuma {atna, 
vulva ; kutna, cut),* The operation is conducted with a stone 
knife and the operator who is, except in the southern Arunta, 
a man who is Ipmunna to the girl, carries with him one of 
the small wooden Churinga called Namatwinna with which 
before operating he touches the lips of the vulva, so as to 
prevent too great a loss of blood. When the operation 
has been performed, the Ipmunna, Unkulla and Unawa 
have access to her in the order named. This ceremony 
is often performed during the progress of an Altherta or 
ordinary corrobboree when, during the day time, the men 
habitually assemble at the corrobboree ground. When it is 
over the woman's head is decorated, by the Ipmunna man 
who operated, with head bands and tufts o( Alpita^ the neck 
with necklaces, the arms with bands of fur string, ^nd her body 
is painted all over with a mixture of fat and red ochre. Thus 
decorated, she is taken to the camp of her special Unawa by the 
men who have taken part in the ceremony and who ha\-e mean- 
while painted themselves with charcoal.* On the day following 
the husband will most likely — though there is no obligation for 
him to do so — send her to the same men, and after that she 
becomeshis special wife, to whom no one else has right of access ; 
though at times a man will lend his wife to a stranger as an act 
of courtesy, always provided that he belongs to the right class, 
that is, to the same as himself After wearing the decorations 
for a few days, the woman returns them ta her Ipmunna man. 
By reference to the tables already given, it' will, be clearly 
seen that on this occasion men of forbidden groups have 
access to the woman. Suppose, for example, that she is a 
Purula. Her proper Unawa will be a Panunga man, and such 
an one is normally the only one with whom she may have 

' As this ceremony has important bearings upon the question now under dis- 
cussioa, it is dealt with here ; but it must be reoiembered [hat it is, strictly speak- 
ing, an initiation ceremony, equivalent io the case of women to thatofsub-incidon 
or ptira-ariltha-ttima amongst the men. 

* Alpita is the name given to the tail lips of the rabbit-bandicoot i^Pcragale ^ 
lago/is) : they are constantly used for personal decoration. 

' It is worth noting that charcoKl is specially used for decorative purposes, 
liiscly in connection with magic, and secondly in connection with avenging parties. 



marital relations. The woman's Ipmunna is an Ungalla man, 
that is, a man who belongs to her own moiety of the tribe ; her 
Unkulla are Uknaria, that is, they belong to the half ot her 
husband's class into which she may not marry. In addition 
to these forbidden men, there are the Unavja or men who 
are her lawful husbands, so far as their class is concerned, but 
whose genera! right of access to her is lost when she is allotted 
to some special individual amongst them. 

In the southern Arunta the operation is performed by a 
man who is Nimmera to the woman, that is, a man of the 
same class as the father of her future husband. For example, 
if she be again a Purula the man will be a Butthara. The 
ceremony is performed when a considerable number of men 
are together in camp, and the details vary somewhat from 
those in the northern part. A brother of the woman who has 
been told by the man that he, the latter, intends to claim his 
alloted Unawa takes the initiative and tells those who are not 
participating in the ceremony to remain in camp. Individuals 
who stand in the relationship to her of Mia, Oknia, Okilia, 
Ungaraitcha, Gammona, Ipmunna and the particular Unawa to 
whom she is allotted, sit down in camp, the woman being 
amongst them. Then a man who is Nimmera to her comes up 
behind, and, touching the woman on the shoulder, tells her 
to follow him. He goes away accompanied by perhaps two 
other Nimmera, one or two who are Unkulla to her, and one 
or two who are Unawa, that is, are of the same class as her 
future husband. After the ceremony has been performed, she 
is decorated and brought back to the camp, and told to sit 
down immediately behind her special Unawa whom, after a 
short time, she accompanies to his camp. That night he 
lends her to one or two men who are Unawa to her, and 
afterwards she belongs exclusively to him. 

Amongst the Kaitish tribe the operation is performed by an 
Arari or elder sister of the woman, and men of the following 
relationship have access in the order indicated, Aimini, the 
equivalents of the Ipmunna amongst the Arunta ; Atinktlia 
mothers' brothers' sons; Alkiriia and Achirri, elder and 
younger brothers (but not in blood) ; Gammona and Umbimita 
the equivalent of the Unawa amongst the Arunta, It will be 




seen that in the Kaitish tribe, the usual restrictions are even 
more notably broken than in the Arunta, for right of access 
is granted to men who are tribal brothers. 

Amongst the Warramunga tribe the operation is performed 
either by a man who is Turtundi, the equivalent of Ipmunna 
in the Arunta, or, as amongst the Kaiti^, by an elder sister. 
Men of the following relationship subsequently have access in 
the order named, Turtundi or Ipmunna ; Wankili, father's 
sisters' sons ; Papirti and Kukatdia, elder and younger 
brothers (not in blood) ; Kullakulla, the equivalents of the 
Unawa in the Arunta. 

Amongst the Iliaura tribe the operation is performed by an 
Ipmunna man and the following, using the equivalent terms 
of the Arunta, have access in the order named ; Ipmunna, 
Unkulla, Okilia, Itia, and Unawa. 

In the Waagai and Bingongina tribes the ceremony is the 
same as in the Warramunga, 

In the Walpari tribe the ceremony, as amongst the southern 
Arunta, is performed by a man who belongs to the same class 
as the woman's father-in-law, and is called Kulkuna ; and men 
of the following relationship have access in the order named. 
Kulkuna ; Thatkana, the equivalents of the Ipmunna ; Wan- 
killina or mothers' brothers' sons ; Papertina and Kukemina, 
elder and younger brothers ; and Kullakulla, the equivalents 
of the Unawa of the Arunta. 

la^he Luritcha tribe the operation is performed by a man 
who is Stkamu to the woman, that is, grandfather on the 
father's side ; and men of the following relationship have 
access in the order named — Slhamu ; Watckira, mothers' 
brothers' sons ; Ukari, sisters' sons ; Kurt, the equivalents of 
the Unawa of the Arunta. 

It will be seen that in the nine tribes referred to there is 
a substantial agreement in the ceremonies concerned with 
marri^e. It must of course be understood that they refer to 
the marriage of men and women who have been allotted to 
one another in one or other of the various ways which obtain 
amongst the tribes dealt with. In all these tribes we find 
that individual marriage exists, though in none of them is 
there a special term applied to the special wife, apart from the 



general one given in common to her and other women of 
her group whom it is lawful for a man to marry and outside 
of whom he may not marry. 

In each tribe, again, we find at this particular time when 
a woman is being, so to speak, handed over to one particular 
man, that special individuals representing groups with which 
at ordinary times she may have no intercourse, have the right 
of access to her. In the majority of tribes, even tribal brothers 
are included amongst them. The individuals who are thus 
privileged vary from tribe to tribe, but in ail cases the striking 
feature is that, for the time being, the existence of what can 
only be described as partial promiscuity can clearly be seen. 
By this we do not mean that marital rights are allowed to 
any man, but that for a time such rights are allowed to 
individuals to whom at other times the woman is ekirinj'a, or 
forbidden. The ceremonies in question are of the nature of 
those which Sir John Lubbock has described as indicative of 
" expiation for marriage," and it is at least very probable that 
the customs are to be regarded as pointing back to the 
former existence of an exercise of wider marital rights than 
those which now obtain in the various tribes. They may in 
fact be best described as rudimentary customs in just the 
same way in which we speak of rudimentary structures 
amongst animals and plants. Just also as the latter are 
regarded as representative of parts which were once functional 
in ancestral forms, so also may we regard these rudimentary 
customs as lingering relics of a former stage passed through 
in the development of the present social organisation of the 
various tribes in which they are found. 

In addition to the ceremonies which are concerned with 
marriage, there is another custom of some^vhat the same 
nature, to which reference may be made here. In the eastern 
and north-eastern parts of the Arunta, and in the Kaitish 
Iliaura, and Warramunga tribes, considerable license is 
allowed on certain occasions, when a large number of men 
and women are gathered together to perform certain corrob- 
borees. When an important one of these is held, it occupies 
perhaps ten days or a fortnight ; and during that time the 
men, and especially the elder ones, but by no means ex- 



clusively these, spend the day in camp preparing decorations 
to be used during the evening. Every day two or three 
women are told off to attend at the corrobboree ground, and. 
with the exception of men who stand in the relation to them 
of actual father, brother, or sons, they are, for the time being, 
common property to all the men present on the corrobboree 
ground; In the Arunta tribe the following is exactly what 
takes place : a man goes to another who is actually or tribally 
his son-in-law, that is, one who stands to him in the relation- 
ship of Gammona, and says to the latter : " You will take my 
Unawa into the bush ^ and bring in with you some undattka 
altkerta" (down used for decorating during ordinary cor- 
robborees). The Gammona then goes away, followed by the 
woman who has been previously told what to do by her 
husiiand. This woman is actually Mura to the Gammona, 
that is, one to whom under ordinary circumstances he may 
not even speak or go near, much less have anything like 
marital relations with. After the two have been out in the 
bush they return to the camp, the man carrying undattlta 
and the woman following with green twigs, which the men 
will wear during the evening dance, tied round their arms and 
ankles. There will be perhaps two or three of these women 
present on each day, and to them any man present on the 
ground, except those already mentioned, may have access. 
During the day they sit near to the men watching but taking 
no part in the preparation of decorations. The natives say 
that their presence during the preparations and the sexual 
indulgence, which was a practice of the Alcheringa, prevents 
anything from going wrong with the performance ; it makes 
it impossible for the head decorations, for example, to become 
loose and disordered during the performance. At evening 
the women are painted with red ochre by the men, and then 
they return to the main camp to summon the women and 
children to the corrobboree. 

In connection with this subject, a curious custom concerned 
with messengers may be noticed here. In the case of the 
Urabunna tribe it is usual to send as messengers, when 

' The bosh is a term used b Australia to denote country more ot less covered 
■ith > growth of natural trees and shrubs. 




summoning distant groups, a man and a woman, or sometimes 
two pairs, who are Piraungaru to each other. The men carry 
as evidence of their mission bunches of cockatoo feathers 
and nose bones. After the men have delivered their message 
and talked matters over with the strangers, they take the 
women out a short distance from the camp, where they leave 
them. If the members of the group which they are visiting 
decide to comply with their request, all men irrespective of 
class have access to the women ; but, if it be decided not to 
comply with the request, then the latter are not visited. In 
much the same way, when a party of men intent on vengeance 
comes near to the strange camp of which they intend to kill 
some member, the use of women may be offered to them. If 
they be accepted, then the quarrel is at an end, as the 
acceptance of this favour is a sign of friendship. To accept 
the favour and then not to comply with the desire of the 
people offering it, would be a gross breach of tribal custom. 

So far, then, as the marital relations of the tribes are con- 
cerned, we find that whilst there is individual marriage, there 
are, in actual practice, occasions on which the relations are of 
a much wider nature. We have, indeed, in this respect three 
very distinct series of relationships. The first is the normal 
one, when the woman is the private property of one man, and 
no one without his consent can have access to her, though he 
may lend her privately to certain individuals who stand in 
one given relationship to her. The second is the wider re- 
lation in regard to particular men at the time of marriage. 
The third is the still wider relation which obtains on certain 
occasions, such as the holding of important corrobborees. 

The first of these is purely a private matter, and it is only 
to this that the term lending of wives can be properly applied, 
and to it we restrict the term in the following pages. The 
second and third are what we may call matters of public 
nature, by which we mean that the individuals concerned 
have no choice in the matter, and the women cannot be with- 
held by the men whose individual wives they either are to be, 
or already are. 

In the case of the women who attend the corrobboree, it is 
supposed to be the duty of every man at different times 



to send his wife to the ground, and the most striking feature 
in regard to it is that the first man who has access to her 
is the very one to whom, under normal conditions, she is 
most strictly tabu, that is, her Miira. This definite way of 
breaking through the rules of tabu appears to show that the 
custom has some very definite significance more than can be 
explained by merely referring it to a feeling of hospitality, 
and the fact that every man in turn is obliged by public 
custom to thus relinquish, for the time being, his possession 
of the womsui who has been allotted to hitri, strengthens the 
idea. At the same time, as young and old men alike have to 
do so at some time or other, it is impossible to regard it as 
a right which is forcibly taken by strong men from weaker 
ones. It is a custom of ancient date which is sanctioned by 
public opinion, and to the performance of which neither men 
nor women concerned offer any opposition. 

In connection with this, it may be worth while noting that 
amongst the Australian natives with whom we have come in 
contact, the feeling of sexual jealousy is not developed to 
anything like the extent to which it would appear to be in 
many other savage tribes. For a man to have unlawful 
intercourse with any woman arouses a feeling which is due 
not so much to jealousy as to the fact that the delinquent has 
infringed a tribal custom. If the intercourse has been with a 
woman who belongs to the class from which his wife comes, 
then he is called atna nylkna (which, literally translated, is 
vulva-thief) ; if with one with whom it is unlawful for him 
to have intercourse, then he is called iturka, the most op- 
pnsbrious term in the Arunta tongue. In the one case he 
has merely stolen property, in the other he has offended 
against tribal law. 

Now and again sexual jealousy as between a man and 
woman will come into play, but as a general rule this is a feel- 
ing which is undoubtedly subservient to that of the influence 
of tribal custom, so far as the latter renders it obligatory for 
a man to allow other men, at certain times, to have free access 
to his wife, or so far as it directs him to lend his wife to 
some other individual as a mark of personal favour to the 

H 2 



Whilst jealousy is not unknown amongst these tribes, the 
point of importance in respect to the matter under discussion 
is that it is not strongly enough developed to prevent the 
occurrence of general intercourse on certain occasions, or the 
lending of wives at other times ; it is, indeed, a factor which 
need not be taken into serious account in regard to the 
question of sexual relations amongst the Central Australian 
tribes. A man in these tribes may be put to death for wrong- 
ful intercourse, but at the same time this is no proof of the 
fact that sexual jealousy exists ; it is a serious offence against 
tribal laivs, and its punishment has no relation to the feelings 
of the individual. 

We may now pass on to discuss briefly the customs relating 
to marriage which have already been enumerated, and in so 
doing, as we have often to refer to the lending of wives, it 
must be remembered that we use this term only as applying 
to the private lending of a woman to some other individual 
by the man to whom she has been allotted, and do not refer 
to the custom at corrobborees which has just been dealt with, 
and which, as it is in reality obligatory and not optional, 
cannot be regarded as a lending in the same sense in which 
the term is used in connection with the former custom. 

In his well-known work dealing with human marriage, 
Westermarck ^ has brought together, from various sources, 
facts relating to similar customs, and, while discussing the 
hypothesis of promiscuity from an adverse point of view, has 
endeavoured to explain them as due to various causes. These 
we may conveniently discuss, examining each briefly in the 
endeavour to ascertain whether it will or will not serve to 
explain the marriage customs as we find them in Australian 
tribes, of which those quoted above may be taken as typical 
examples. It must be understood that we are here simply 
dealing with this question so far as the evidence derived from 
these Australian tribes is concerned. 

The first explanation offered is that in certain instances the 
practice is evidently associated with phallic worship, as, for 
example, when in the valley of the Ganges, the vii^ins had to 
offer themselves up in the temples of Juggernaut, This 
' The HisUry of Human Marriage, pp. 51-133. 



implies a state of social development very different from, and 
much more advanced than, anything met with amongst the 
Australian natives, and the two customs are evidently quite 
distinct from one another. It is doubtful how far phallic 
worship can be said to exist amongst the Australian natives. 

In other cases where the bride is for a night considered the 
common properly of the guests at a wedding feast, Wester- 
marck su^ests that " It may have been a part of the nuptial 
entertainment — a horrible kind of hospitality no doubt, but 
quite in accordance with savage ideas, and analogous to another 
custom which occurs much more frequently — I mean the 
practice of lending wives." This presupposes, and in fact is 
co-existent with, what does not take place in Australian 
tribes, and that is a more or less regular marriage ceremony 
at which guests assemble, and such an organised proceeding 
cannot be said to exist amongst the tribes with which we are 
dealing ; moreover, apart from this, which is not perhaps a 
very serious objection, though it seems to imply a state of 
development considerably in advance of that of the Australian 
natives, there still remains what appears to us to be the in- 
superable difficulty of accounting, on this hypothesis, for the 
fact that this " hospitality " amongst Australian tribes is only 
allowed to a limited number of individuals, all of whom must 
stand in some particular relationship to the woman. 

Westermarck further suggests that it is analogous to the 
custom of lending wives. Now, amongst the Australian 
natives wives are certainly lent, but only under strict rules ; 
in the Arunta tribe for example no man will lend his wife to 
any one who does not belong to the particular g roup \ y\*^ 
which it is lawful for her to have marital relations — she is 
in fact, only lent to a man whom she calls Unawa, just as 
she calls her own husband, and though this may undoubtedly 
be spoken of as an act of hospitality, it may with equal justice 
be regarded as evidence of the very clear recognition of group 
relationship, and as evidence also in favour of the former 
existence of group marriage. 

It is quite true, on the other hand, that a native will some- 
times offer his wife, as an act of hospitality, to a white man ; 
but this has nothing to do with the lending of wives which 



has just been dealt with, and the difference between the two 
acts is of a radical nature. The white man stands outside the 
laws which govern the native tribe, and therefore to lend him 
a wife of any designation does not imply the infringement of 
any custom. This is purely and simply, as Westermarck 
points out, an act of hospitality, but the very fact that he will 
only lend his wife, if he does so at all, to another native of a 
particular designation, seems to at once imply that we are 
dealing with a custom at the root of which lies something 
much more than merely an idea of hospitality. The lending 
of women to men outside the tribe who are not amenable to 
its laws and customs is one thing, to lend them to men who 
are members of the tribe is quite another thing, and the 
respective origins of the customs in these two radically 
different cases are probably totally distinct — one is no doubt 
to be explained on the hypothesis of hospitality, the other is 
not The hypothesis of hospitality does not, in short, appear 
to us to be capable of explaining the fact that both at mar- 
riage and at certain other times, it is only particular men who 
are allowed access to particular women.^ 

A third hypothesis suggested to account for certain customs 
such as the "jus primae noctis," accorded to chiefs and par- 
ticular individuals, is that " it may be a right taken forcibly by 
the stronger, or it may be a privilege voluntarily given 
to the chief man as a mark of esteem ; in either case it 
depends upon his authority."' It will be generally admitted 
that here again no such explanation will account for the 
customs as met with amongst Australian tribes. In the first 
place, ivhile the elder men are undoubtedly accorded certain 
privileges, there is not in any Australian tribe any one in- 

' II may perhaps be advisable lo point out thai in many cases in which appar- 
ently women are lent (in the sense in which we use the word, which is the sense 
in which it is generally used in this connection) indiscriminately, a knowledge a! 
details would show that this was not so. In regard to Australian tribes it is very 
difficult. In most cases, to find out anything like exact details from accounts 
already published, and general statements such as that a patty of men have the 
privilege of access to a woman are valueless unless we know the eiact conditions 
or relative status of the individual men and the woman. In the nine tribes ex- 
amined by us we have found that intercourse of this nature is strictly regulated by 

• Westermlrck, o/. cif., p. 78. 



dividual to whom the term chief can, with strict propriety, be 
applied, and in the second place the privilege with which we 
are dealing is by no means enjoyed wholly by the elder men.^ 
Unless the leading man in any group stands in a particular 
relationship to the woman, he has no more right of access to 
her than the most insignificant man in the group, 

A fourth hypothesis is suggested in connection with the 
right of access granted to men who have assisted the bride- 
groom in the capture of the woman, " In such cases the ' jus 
primae noctis' is a reward for a good turn done, or perhaps, 
as Mr. McLennan suggests, a common war right, exercised 
by the captors of the woman,"' There is undoubtedly much 
to be said in favour of this, but there are objections applying 
to it as to the second hypothesis dealt with. In the first place, 
so far as Australia is concerned, it is founded upon such vague 
statements as that quoted by Brough Smyth upon the autho- 
rity of Mr. J. M. Davis.' Mr. Davis says, "when a yoHng 
man is entitled to have a lubra, he organises a party of his 
friends, and they make a journey into the territories of some 
other tribe, and there lie in wait, generally in the evening, by 
a waterhole, where the lubras come for water. Such of the 
lubras as may be required are then pounced upon, and, if 
they attempt to make any resistance, are struck down insen- 
sible and dragged off. There is also this peculiarity, that in 
any instance where the abduction has taken place for the 
benefit of some one individual, each of the members of the 
party claims, as a right, a privilege which the intended hus- 
band has no power to refuse." 

Before it is safe, or indeed possible, to draw any conclu- 
sion from this, we require to know exactly who the men were, 
that is in what relationship they stood to the mat) whom 

• The term chief or even king of a tribe is not seldom used in writings ,of a 
somewhat popular nature, which deal with Australia. Travellers will often find 
in DpH:ountTy pans a. native of appropriate age decorated with a brass plate 
whereon is inscribed some such legend as " King Billy, chief of the Gurraburra 
tribe," The individual in question may possibly have been, though it is just as 
likely that he was not, the head of a local group or even tribe, but the natives 
have no term which can be correctly rendered by the word "chief," 

• Westermarck, gfi. tit. , p. 76. 

• Absrigiiut tf Vklaria, vol. iu, p. 316. 



they were assisting. The more detailed is the information 
acquired in respect to the Australian tribes, the more clearly 
is it made apparent that on expeditions such as this, when 
the object in view is the obtaining of a wife, the man only 
asks the assistance of men who stand in certain definite re- 
lationships to himself. It does not at all follow, that, be- 
cause a man forms a member of a- party which captures a 
woman, he is therefore allowed to have access to her. In the 
tribes which we have investigated, marriage customs regulate 
the whole proceedings ; the equivalent classes in the tribes 
are well known and, supposing for example, a party consists 
of men belonging to two classes, which we will call A and B, 
and a woman is captured belonging, say, to a third class C, 
which intermarries with Class A, but not with Class B, then 
no man in the party, if there be any such present, who belongs 
to Class B will be allowed, or will attempt, to have access to 
her. When we have merely such general statements as that 
quoted above from the report of Mr. Davis, it may look very 
much as if there did exist such a thing as " a common war- 
right, exercised by the captors of a woman," but the more 
detailed our information becomes, the less evidence of any 
such "common war-right" do we find, and in the Australian 
tribes generally it may be regarded as very doubtful if any 
such right really exists. Amongst the tribes with which we 
are acquainted it certainly does not. 

Marriage by capture is ^ain, at the present day, whatever 
it may have been in the past, by no means the rule in 
Australian tribes, and too much stress has been laid upon 
this method. It is only comparatively rarely that a native 
goes and seizes upon some lubra in a neighbouring tribe ; 
by far the most common method of getting a wife is by 
means of an arrangement made between brothers or fathers 
of the respective men and women, whereby a particular 
woman is assigned to a particular man. Marriage by capture 
may indeed be regarded as one of the most exceptional 
methods of obtaining a wife amongst the natives at the 
present day. We are not of course referring here to customs 
which may, in many tribes, be explained as indicative of a 
former existence of the practice ; whether, in the remote past, 



capture was the prevailing method can only be a matter of 
conjecture, but the customs at marriage in the tribes here 
dealt with — and it may be pointed out that these occupy a 
very lai^e area in the centre of the continent, so that we are 
by no means dealing with an isolated example — do not seem 
to indicate that they owe their origin to anything like the 
Tecognition of the right of captor, as captor. 

The fifth hypothesis is that of promiscuity. Certainly at 
the present day, so far as we can tell, there is some definite 
system of marriage in all Australian tribes and promiscuity, 
as a normal feature, does not exist. At the same time none 
of the hypotheses put forward by Westermarck will serve to 
explain the curious and very strongly marked features of the 
marriage customs, the essential points in which are, (1) that 
men have access to women who are strictly forbidden to 
them at ordinary times, and (2) that it is only certain definite 
men standing in certain particular relationships to the woman 
who thus have access. 

To make use of the same analogy again, it seems that in 
the evolution of the social organisation and customs of a savage 
tribe, such features as those which we are now discu.ssing are 
clearly comparable to the well known rudimentary organs, 
which are often of great importance in understanding the 
phylogeny of the animal in which at some time of its develop- 
ment they are present. Such rudimentary structures are 
emblematic of parts which are perhaps only transient or, at 
most, imperfectly developed in the animal, but their presence 
shows that they were, at some past time, more highly 
developed and functional in ancestral stages. 

It is thus perhaps permissible to speak of " rudimentary 
customs," in just the same way, and with just the same 
significance attached to them, in which we speak of " rudi- 
mentary oi^ans" and we may recognise in them an abbreviated 
record of a stage passed through in the development of the 
customs of the tribe amongst which they are found.^ Such 

' Since the above was wriiten we have seen the essays by Professor Karl 
Pearson dealing wilh the same subject, in his work Tht Cianfts of Dtatk. In 
these Mr. Pearson has used the term "fossil," but though the term " rudimentary 
cnstom " has the disadvantage of length, »fe prefer to retain it as it appears lo us 
lo draw Mlention to a striking analogy. 



rudimentary customs, like those which are associated with the 
Maypole for example, point back to a time when they were 
more highly developed than they are at present, and when the 
customs were more or less widely different from those now 

The origin of the marriage customs of the tribes now dealt 
with cannot possibly, so it seems to us, be explained as due 
either to a feeling of hospitality, or to the right of captors ; 
nor can they be explained, as in certain cases the "jus primae 
noctis" can, as a right forcibly taken by the stronger from the 
weaker. There can be no reasonable doubt but that at one time 
the marriage arrangements of the Australian tribes were in a 
more primitive state than they are at the present day, and 
the customs with which we are dealing can be most simply 
explained as rudimentary ones serving, possibly in a very 
abbreviated way, to show the former existence of conditions 
which are no longer prevalent. 

In regard to the marriage customs of the tribes now dealt 
with, we have the following facts. In the first place we have 
a group of women who are, what is called Unawa, to a group 
of men and vice versa, that is, all of these men and women 
are reciprocally marriageable. This, it may be observed, is 
not a matter of assumption but of actual fact In the Arunta 
tribe for example a Panunga man will call the Purula whom 
he actually marries Unawa, but he has no name to distinguish 
her from all the other Purula women whom he does not 
actually marry, but any one of whom he might lawfully 
marry.' Further than this, while he has no actual right of 
access to any woman, except his own special Unavm woman 
or women, there are times, as, for example, during special 
ceremonies, or when he is visiting a distant group, when a 
woman is lent to him, but that ^^'oman must be one who is 

' By lawrully marry we meiin that though the woman may be betrothed lo 
another man, he would not break any tribal law by marrying her. If the woman 
belonged to a different local group from his own, and he obtained her by one of 
the recognised methods of charming, then the members of hii own group would 
assist him in retaining her, whereas if he obtained by charming any woman of a 
forbidden class, then, not only would he receive no help from his own group, but 
they would either put him to death themselves, or else they would request some 
ne^hbouring group to do so. 



Unawa to him. In other words, we have individual marriage 
in which a man is limited in his choice to women of a 
particular group, each one of whom stands to him in the 
relationship of a possible wife, and with whom it is lawful for 
him, with the consent of her special Unawa man, to have 
marital relations. However hospitably inclined a man may 
feel, he will never lend his wife to a man who does not belong 
to a group of men to each of whom she stands in the relation- 
ship of Unawa or possible wife. A Panunga man may lend 
his wife to another Panunga, but for a man of any other class 
to have marital relations with her would be a gross offence. 

In the second place, we have certain customs concerned 
with marriage which are of what we may call a transient 
nature. Taking the Kaitish tribe as an example, we find 
that, when marriage actually takes place, the operation of 
Atna-ariltha-kuma is performed by the elder sister of the 
woman, and that men of the following relationship have 
access to her in the order named : Ipmunna, that is individuals 
of the same moiety of the tribe as her own ; mothers' 
brothers' sons ; tribal elder and younger brothers ; and 
lastly, men whom she might lawfully marry, but who have no 
right to her when once she becomes the property of a member 
of the group to which they belong. By referring to the tables 
already given, it will be seen that these men, if we take a 
particular example, say a Panunga woman, are Ungalla, 
Uknaria, Purula and Panunga. In other words, both men of 
her own, and of the moiety of the tribe to which she does not 
belong, have access to her, but only for a very limited time, 
and the same holds true in the case of all the tribes 

It will therefore be seen that (i) for a given time a woman 
has marital relations with men of both moieties of the tribe, 
and (2) that she may during her life, when once she has 
become the special wife of some individual man, have law- 
fully, but dependent always upon the consent of the latter, 
marital relations with any of the group of men to each and all 
of whom she stands in the relationship of Unawa. 

These are the actual facts with which we have to deal, and 
the only possible explanation of them appears to us to lie 



along the following lines. We are here of course only dealing 
with those tribes in which descent is counted in the male 
line, the remaining tribe — the Urabunna — in which descent is 
counted in the female line, will be referred to subsequently. 
It appears to us that, in the present customs relating to 
marriage amongst this section of the Australian natives, we 
have clear evidence of three grades of development. We 
have (i) the present normal condition of individual marriage 
with the occasional existence of marital relations between the 
individual wife and other men of the same group as that to 
which her husband belongs, and the occasional existence also 
of still wider marital relations ; (2) we have evidence of the 
existence at a prior time of actual group marriage ; and (3) 
we have evidence of the existence at a still earlier time of 
still wider marital relations. 

The evidence in favour of the hypothesis, that the present 
marriage system of such a tribe as the Arunta is based upon 
the former actual existence of group marriage, seems to us to 
be incontestable. The one most striking point in regard to 
marriage at the present day is that a man of one group is 
absolutely confined in his choice of a wife to women of a 
particular group, and that it is lawful for him to marry any 
woman of that group. When once he has secured a woman 
she is his private property, but he may, and often does, 
lend her to other men, but only if they belong to his own 
group. Further still, the natives have two distinct words 
to denote on the one hand surreptitious connection between 
a man and a woman who is not his own wife, but belongs 
to the proper group from which his wife comes, and, on the 
other hand, connection between a man and a woman belong- 
ing to forbidden groups. The first is called Atna-nylkna, the 
second is Iturka. In the face of the facts which have been 
brought forward, we see no possible explanation other than 
that the present system is derived from an earlier one in 
which the essential feature was actual group marriage. 

When we turn to the Urabunna tribe we find the evidence 
still clearer. Here we have only two classes, viz,, Matt- 
hurie and Kiraraiva. A Matthurie man marries a Kirarawa 
woman, and vice versa. There is no such thing as an 



individual wife. Every Matthurie man stands in the relation- 
ship of Nupa to a group of Kirarawa women, and they are, 
in the same way, Nupa to him. Every man has, or at least 
may have, one or more of these Nupa women allotted to 
him as wives, and to whom he has the first but not the 
exclusive right of access. To certain Nupa women other 
than his own wives he stands in the relationship of /'jyaaw^orw, 
and they to him. These Piraungaru are the wives of other 
men of his own group, just as his own wives are Piraungaru 
to some of the latter men, and we thus find in the Urabunna 
tribe that a group of women actually have marital relations 
with a group of men. ' Westermarck' has referred in his work 
to what he calls " the pretended group-marriages " of the 
Australians. In the case of the Urabunna there is no pre- 
tence of any kind, and exactly the same remark holds true 
of the neighbouring Dieri tribe. 

The matter can be expressed clearly in the form of a 
diagram used by Mr. Fison in explaining the marriage system 
of the Dieri tribe:* 










Fl is ihe allotted Nupa of Ml, her Pirsungani are Mz and M3. 
F2 ,, „ Mi, ,, ,, Ml and M3. 

F3 „ ,, M3, „ ,, Ml and Mz. 

It must be remembered, of course, that any one woman 
may be Piraungaru to a larger number of men than the two 
who are represented in the diagram. The relation ot Piraun- 
garu is established between any woman and men to whom 
she is Nupa — that is, to whom she may be lawfully married 

' Op. cit., p. 95, footnote. 

• Claisificotory System of Relationship, Bril. An. Adv. Sci., Oxford, 1S94, 
p. 36a 



by her Nuthie or elder brothers. If a group be camped 
together, and, as a matter of fact groups of individuals who 
are Piraungaru to one another do usually camp together, then 
in the case of Fl, her special Nupa man Ml has the first 
right to her, but if he be absent then Ma and M3 have the 
right to her ; or, if M i be present, the t^vo have the right to 
her subject to his consent, which is practically never withheld. 

It is difficult to see how this system can be regarded other- 
wise than as an interesting stage in the transition from group 
to individual marriage. Each woman has one special 
individual who has the first right of access to ; her, but she 
has also a number of individuals of the same group who have 
a right to her either, if the first man be present, with his 
consent or, in his absence, without any restriction whatever. 

In this tribe, just as in all the others, connection with 
women of the wrong group is a most serious offence, punish- 
able by death or very severe treatment 

The evidence in favour of the third grade, that is the 
existence of wider marital relations than those indicated by 
the form of group marriage which has just been discussed, fs 
naturally more indefinite and difficult to deal with. VVester- 
marck, after having discussed at length the hypothesis of 
promiscuity, says:' "Having now examined all the groups 
of social phenomena adduced as evidence for the hypothesis 
of promiscuity, we have found that, in point of fact, they are 
no evidence. Not one of the customs alleged as relics of an 
ancient state of indiscriminate cohabitation of the sexes or 
'communal marriage' presupposes the former existence of 
that state," and further on he says : * "It is not, of course, 
impossible that, among some people, intercourse between the 
sexes may have been almost promiscuous. But there is not 
a shred of genuine evidence for the notion that promiscuity 
ever formed a general stage in the social history of mankind." 

It need scarcely be pointed out how totally opposed this 
conclusion of Mr. Westermarck's is to that arrived at by other 
workers, and we think there can be little doubt but that 
Mr. Westermarck is in error with regard to the question 
of group marriage amongst the Australian natives. 

" op. cil., p. 113 =0/. fiV., p. 133. 



We are here simply concerned with the question as to 
whether there is any evidence in favour of the supposition that 
in former times there existed wider marital relations amongst 
the Australian natives than is indicated in the system of 
group marriage, the evidence in favour of which has been 
dealt with. If any were forthcoming, there can be little 
doubt but that, a priori, we should expect to find it in the 
nature of what we have called a rudimentary custom, such 
as might be met with at the actual time of marriage, that is, 
when a woman is handed over to become the possession of 
one man. None of the hypotheses brought forward by 
Westermarck to explain the customs on this occasion can, we 
think, be considered as at all satisfactory in regard to those of 
the tribes with which we are dealing. The one striking feature 
of the marriage customs is that particular men representative 
of the woman's own moiety, and of the half of the tribe 
to which she does not belong, have access to her, and always 
in a particular order, according to which those who, in the 
present state of the tribe, have lawfully the right to her come 

These customs, together with the one already dealt with, 
referring to a general intercourse during the performance of 
certain corrobborees are, it appears to us, only capable of 
any satisfactory explanation on the hypothesis that they 
indicate the temporary recognition of certain general rights 
which existed in the time prior to that of the form of 
group marriage of which we have such clear traces yet 
lingering amongst the tribes. We do not mean that 
they afford direct evidence of the former existence of actual 
promiscuity, but they do afford evidence leading in that 
direction, and they certainly point back to a time when 
there existed wider marital relations than obtain at the 
present day — wider, in fact, than those which are shown in the 
form of group marriage from which the present system 
is derived. On no other hypothesis yet advanced do the 
customs connected with marriage, which are so consistent 
in their general nature and leading features from tribe to 
tribe, appear to us to be capable of satisfactory explanation. 




Every individual is born into some lolem— Variations in (he significance of ih? 
totems in difftrent parts of Australia — Tolems of (he Urabunna tribe — The 
child takes the mother's totem — Totems of the Arunla (ribe— No relationship 
of necessity between the totem luime of the child and that of the bthet and 
mother — Maitiage not regulated by totem — Examples of totem names as 
they exist in particular families— Though differing much from one another in 
many points, there is a fundamental unity in customs, sufficient to indicate 
the ongin of all Australian tribes from ancestors who practised certain customs 
which have been developed along different lines in different localities — Cere- 
monies of the Engwura 5e^^'ing to show the way in which each individual 
acquires his or her tolemic name — The Alcherit^ times — The ancestral 
members of certain lotemic groups restricted wholly, or alnwisl so, to mem- 
bers of one moiety of the tribe— The wanderings of certain groups of Alcheringa 
ancestors, each of whom carried one or more sacred Churinga, with each of 
which is associated the spirit part of an individual — Where the Churinga arc 
deposited there local totem centres are formed, the native name of which is 
Oknanitilla — Each Oknanikilla is associated with one totem, and when a 
child is born it is one of the spirit individi^als resident at a particular spot 
which goes inside a woman, and therefore its totem is the totem of the spirits 
associated with that spot — Examples of how a child gets its totemic name — 
Totem never changes, but (he class may — Ilie totems are local in their 

Every individual of the tribes with which we are dealing is 
born into some totem — that is, he or she belongs to a group of 
persons each one of whom bears the name of, and is especially 
associated with, some natural object. The latter is usually an 
animal or plant ; but in addition to those of living things, 
there are also such totemnamesaswind, sun, water, or cloud — 
in fact there is scarcelj- an object, animate or inanimate, to be 
found in the country occupied by the natives which does not 
gives its name to some totemic group of individuals. 

Much has been written with regard to the totems of the 

Australian natives since the time when Grey first described 

ler the name of Kobong, which, it must be remarked, 

local application in certain parts of the west, the 

\d 01117,7,1 hyGoOglC 


word being entirely unknown over the greater part of the 
continent. As might have been expected, when we take into 
account the vast area of land over which the Australian tribes 
are spread, and the isolation by physical barriers of those 
occupying the Central area from the tribes living on the east 
and west, there have arisen, in respect to the totemic system, 
variations of so important a. character that it is by no means 
possible to describe that which is found in any one tribe or 
group of tribes and regard it as typical of Australian natives 
generally. The Arunta, Ilpirra and Luritcha tribes, and 
there is little doubt but that the same holds true of other 
tribes to the north, such as the Waa^i, Iliaura, Bingongina, 
Walpari, and Warramunga, differ in important respects from 
the tribes which either now do, or formerly did, inhabit the 
east and south-eastern parts of the continent, and to whom 
nearly all our knowledge of totems in Australia has been 
confined. Between these central and the southern and south- 
eastern tribes a sharp line can be drawn, so far as their 
totemic systems are concerned ; indeed it looks very much 
as if somewhere a little to the north-west of Lake Eyre we 
had a meeting-place of two sets of tribes, which migrated 
southwards, following roughly parallel courses, one across the 
centre of the continent, while the other followed down the 
course of the main streams on the east, and then turned 
slightly northward on the west side of Lake Eyre ; or, 
possibly, in their southern wanderings, part of this eastern 
group spread round the north, and part round the south end 
ofthe lake (Fig. l). 

We find, so far as their organisation is concerned, a sharply 
marked line of difference between the Urabunna tribe, the . 
members of which are spread over the country which lies to 
the west and north-west of Lake Eyre, and the Arunta tribe, 
which adjoins their northern boundary. The Urabunna 
tribe is associated with the migration along the eastern side, 
while the Arunta is the most southern of the Central tribes. 

In the Urabunna and the adjoining Dieri tribe, as well as 
in those which spread northwards on the east side of Lake 
Eyre towards the borders of Queensland, and in , others who 
li^-ed along the shores of Spencer Gulf and along the southern 



coast, we find that descent is counted in the female line. In 
the Urabunna, for example, we find that all the members of 
the tribe are divided into two classes, which are called 
respectively Matthurie and Kirarawa, and each of these 
^ain contains a certain number of totems, or, as the natives 
call them, Thunthunie. The same totem name is only to 
be found in one or other of the two classes, but not in both- 
Thus, for example, among the Matthurie we find the follow- 
ing totems — Inyarrie (wild duck), Wutnimmera (green cicada), 
f Matla (dingo), Waragutie (emu), Kalathura (wild turkey), 
Guti (black swan) ; whilst amongst the Kirarawa are such 
totems as Kurara (cloud), Wabma (carpet snake), Kapirie 
(lace lizard), Urantha (pelican), KutnichiUe (water-hen), 
Wakala (crow).' 

Now not only must a Matthurie man take as wife a 
Kirarawa woman, but he must only take one of some 
particular totem.* Thus a wild duck Matthurie man marries 
a snake Kirarawa woman, a cicada marries a crow, a dingo a 
water-hen, an emu a rat, a wild turkey a cloud, and a swan a 
pelican. Every child, male or female, of a wild duck 
Matthurie man belongs to the class Kirarawa, and to the 
totem snake to which his mother belonged. Thus in every 
family the father belongs to one class and totem, while the 
mother and all the children belong to another. We have 
already dealt at length with certain aspects of the social 
organisation of the Urabunna tribe, and enough has now been 
said to show that it is a typical example of one of the many 
I Australian tribes in which the totem of the child is simply 
/ determined by that of the mother. 

Passing northwards from the Urabunna into the Arunta 
tribe, we are brought into contact with a very different 
oi^anisation, but with one which, in regard to the class names, 
is typical of tribes which occupy an area extending north and 
south for some 800 miles, and east and west for perhaps 

' The organisation of the Dieri tribe, as well as its marriage customs, have been 
desciibed by Mr. Howitt in his monograph " On Ihe Oiganisation of Australian 
Tribes," TraHs. R. S. Vict., vol. L, pt. l, 1889., p. 114, which may be r^arded 
as embodying generally our knowledge of the organisation of Australian tribes up 
to the present day. 

■ n with this the footnote on p. 6a 



between 200 and 300. We find also essentially the same 
system in tribes inhabiting other parts of Australia, such as 
the Turribul, living on the Maryborough river in Queensland.^ 
Without entering here into details, which will be fully 
explained subsequently, we may say that, so far as the class 
is concerned, descent is counted in the male line. The totem 
names are, however, at first sight decidedly perplexing. Just 
as in the Urabunna tribe, every individual has his or her 
totem name. In the first place, however, no one totem is 
confined to the members of a particular class or sub- 
class ; in the second place the child's totem will some- 
times be found to be the same as that of the father, 
sometimes the same as that of the mother, and not infre- 
quently it will be different from that of either parent ; and 
in the third place there is no definite relationship between 
the totem of the father and mother, such as exists in the 
Urabunna and many other Australian tribes — in fact perhaps 
in the majority of the latter. You may, for example, examine 
at first a family in which the father is a witchetty grub 
and the mother a wild cat, and you may find, supposing there 
be two children, that they are both witchetty grubs. In the 
next family examined perhaps both parents will be witchetty 
grubs, and of two children one may belong to the same totem, 
and the other may be an emu ; another family will show the 
father to be, say, an emu, the mother a plum-tree, and of their 
children one may be a witchetty grub, another a lizard, and so 
on, the totem names being apparently mixed up in the 
greatest confusion possible. 

We give below the actual totem names of five families, 
selected at random, who are now living in the northern 
section of the Arunta tribe, and these may be taken as ac- 
curately representative of the totem names found in various 
bmilies throughout the tribe. After making very numerous 
and as careful inquiries as possible, always directly from the 
natives concerned, we can say that every family shows the 
same features as these particular examples do with regard to 
the totems, the names of the latter varying, of course, from 
family to family and in different parts of the country, certain 
^ Howitt. op. til. p. lOi, 



totems predominating in some, and others in other parts. 
You may, for example, find yourself in one district of more 
or less limited area and find one totem largely represented ; 
travelling out of that district, you may meet but rarely with 
that particular totem until you come into another and per- 
haps distant part, where — it may be 40 or 50 miles away — 
it again becomes the principal one. The reason for, or rather 
the explanation of, this curious local distribution of totem 
names, as given by the natives, will be seen presently. 

Family i. Father, little hawk. Wife No. I, rat ; daughter, 
witchetty grub. Wife No. 2, kangaroo ; no children. Wife No, 
3, lizard ; two daughters, one emu, the other water. 

Family 2. Father, eagle-hawk. Wife No. I, Hakea flower ; 
no children. Wife No. 2, Hakea flower; four sons, who are 
respectively witchetty grub, emu, eagle-hawk, elonka ; two 
daughters, both witchetty grubs. 

Family 3. Father, witchetty grub. Wife No. i, lizard ; two 
sons, one lizard, the other witchetty grub. Wife No, 2, lizard. 

Family 4. Father, emu. Wife, munyeru ; two sons, one 
kangaroo, the other, wild cat ; one daughter, lizard. 

Family 5. Father, witchetty grub. Wife, witchetty grub ; 
two sons, one, kangaroo, the other, witchetty grub ; one 
daughter, witchetty grub. 

Taking these as typical examples of what is found through- 
out the whole tribe, we can see that while, as already stated, 
marriages are strictly regulated by class rules, the question of 
totem has nothing to do with the matter either so far as 
making it obligatory for a man of one totem to marry a 
woman of another particular one, or so far as the totem of 
the children is concerned. The totem name of the child 
does not of necessity follow either that of the father or that 
of the mother, but it may correspond to one or both of them. 
Whether there ever was a time when, in the Aninta and 
other neighbouring tribes, marriage was regulated by totem 
it is difficult to say. At the present day it is not, nor can 
we find any evidence in the full and numerous traditions 
relating to the doings of their supposed ancestors which 
affords indications of a time when, as in the Urabunna tribe, 
a man might only marry a woman of a totem different from 



his own. In their curious totem regulations, the Aninta and 
Ilpirra tribes agree, as we know from personal observation, 
while we have reason to believe that large and important 
tribes living to the north of them — viz. the Kaitish, Warra- 
munga, Waagai, Iliaura, Bingongina and Walpari — are in 
accord with them on all important points. The difference in 
this respect between the tribes whose customs and organisa- 
.tion are now described, and those of other tribes which 
have been dealt with by able and careful investigators, such 
as Grey, Fison, Howitt, Roth and others, will serve to show 
that various tribes and groups of tribes, starling doubtless 
from a common basis, but isolated from one another during 
long periods of time by physical barriers, have developed 
along different lines. Except, perhaps, in the extreme 
north and north-east, Australia has had for long ages no 
intercourse with outside peoples, and such as it has had 
has only affected a very small and insignificant coastal fringe 
of the continent, and even there the i nfluence has been but 
very slight. What we have to deal with is a great conti- 
nental area, peopled'most probably by men who entered from 
the north and brought with them certain customs. We are 
not here concerned with the difficult question of exactly 
where the ancestors of the present Australian natives came 
from. The most striking fact in regard to them at the present 
day is that over the whole continent, so far as is known, we 
can detect a community of customs and social organisation 
sufficient to show that all the tribes inhabiting various parts 
are the offspring of ancestors who, prior to their migrating 
in various directions across the continent, and thus giving rise 
to groups separated to a great extent from one another by 
physical barriers, already practised certain customs and had 
the germs of an organisation which has been developed 
along different lines in different localities. 

The class and totem systems, variously modified as we 
\ now find them in different tribes, can only be adequately 
accounted for on the hypothesis that, when the ancestors of 
the present natives reached the country, they spread over it 
in various directions, separated into local groups, and devel- 
oped, without the stimulus derived from contact with out- 



side peoples, along various lines, each group retaining features 
in its customs and organisation such as can only be explained 
by supposing them all to have had a common ancestry.^ 

However, to return to the totems of the Arunta, It was 
while watching and questioning closely the natives during 
the performance of the Engwura ceremony — a description 
of which will be found in a later chapter — that we were able 
to find out the way in which the totem names of the indi- 
viduals originate and to gain an insight into the true nature 
of their totemic system. 

The Engwura ceremony, which forms the last of the initi- 
atory rites through which the Arunta native must pass before 
he becomes what is called Urliara, or a fully developed 
native, admitted to all the most sacred secrets of the tribe, 
consisted in reality of a long series of ceremonies, the enact- 
ing of which occupied in all more than four months. Those 
with which we are here concerned were a large number, 
between sixty and seventy altogether, which were connected 
with the totems and were performed under the direction of 
the old men, who instructed the younger men both how to 
perform them and what they represented. 

The native name for these ceremonies is Quabara,* and 
each one is known as a Quabara of a certain totem associated 
with a particular spot. Thus we have, for example, the 
Quabara Unjiamba of Ooraminna, which means a ceremony 
of the Unjiamba or Hakea flower totem of a place called 
Ooraminna ; the Quabara Achilpa of Urapitchera, which 
means a ceremony of the wild cat (a species of Dasyurus) 

' The evidence in bvour of this is strikingly shown in r^ard to the details of 
the ceremonies concerned with the knocking out of leeth. In some parts of ihe 
continent this is retained as the important initiation lite, while in other parts it 
hiLS lost this significance, and yet in all cases agreement in important details shows 
the common otigin of the custom. Further evidence in regard to this will be 
dealt with in connection with the account of Ihe ceremonies attendant on the 
knocking out of teeth. 

* This is not a cotruption of Ihe word corrobboree, which is a term used only, 
originally, by a tribe of the eastern coast, but now generally by whites lo describe 
the ordinary dancing ceremonies, which are entirely difletent from the sacred 
ceremoTiies of the Arunta and other tribes. The word Quabara belongs to the 
Arunta tongue. Corrobboree is a word which in many parts has been adopted by 
the natives afler hearing Ihe while men use it. 



totem of a place called Urapitchera on the Finke River ; 
the Quabara Okira of Idracowra, which means a ceremony 
of the kangaroo totem of a place called Idracowra on the 
Finke River, or, to speak more correctly, of a special spot 
marked by the presence of a great upstanding column 
of sandstone, called by white men Chamber's pillar, of 
the native name for which, Idracowra is a corruption ; 
the Quabara Unchichera of Imanda, which means a 
c«^mony of the frog totem of a spot called by the natives 
Imanda, and by the white men Bad Crossing on the Hugh 
River. Each ceremony was thus concerned with a special 
totem, and not only this, but with a special division of a 
totem belonging to a definite locality, and, further, each 
ceremony was frequently, but by no means always, in the 
possession of, and presided over by, an old man of the totem 
and locality with which it was concerned. It will shortly be seen 
that the totems are strictly local, but that we have what may 
be called local centres of any one totem in various districts 
of the wide area over which the Arunta tribe is scattered. 
For our present purpose, which is the explanation of the way 
in which each individual gets his or her totemic name, the 
following general account will suffice. 
The whole past history of the tribe may be said to be 

\ bound up with these totemic ceremonies, each of which is 

! concerned with the doings of certain mythical ancestors who 
"^ are supposed to have lived in the dim past, to which the 

j natives give the name of the " Alcherin ga." 

L In the Alcheringa lived ancestors wHBT-in the native mind, 
are so intimately associated with the animals or plants the 
name of which they bear that an Alcheringa man of, say, the 
kangaroo totem may sometimes be spoken of either as a 
man-kangaroo or as a kangaroo-man. The identity of the 
human individual is often sunk in that of the animal or plant 
/from which he is supposed to have originated. It is useless 

I to try and get further back than the Alcheringa ; the history 
of the tribe as known to the natives commences then. 

Going back to this far-away time, we find ourselves in the 
midst of semi-human creatures endowed with powers not 
possessed by their living descendants and inhabiting the same 



country which is now inhabited by the tribe, but which was 
then devoid of many of its most marked features, the origin 
of which, such as the gaps and goi^es in the Macdonnell 
■Ranges, is attributed to these mythical Alcheringa ancestors. 

These Alcheringa men and woman are represented in 
tradition as collected together in companies, each of which 
consisted of a certain number of individuals belonging to one 
particular totem. Thus, for example, the ceremonies of the 
EngAvura dealt with four separate groups of Achilpa or wild 
cat men. 

Whilst every now and then we come across traditions, 
according to which,as in the case of the Achilpa, the totem is 
common to all classes, we always find that in each totem one 
moiety^ of the tribe predominates, and that, according to 
tradition, many of the groups of ancestral individuals con- 
sisted originally of men or women or of both men and women 
who all belonged to one moiety. Thus in the case of certain 
Okira or kangaroo groups we find only Kumara and Purula ; 
in certain Udnirringita or witchetty grub groups we find only 
Bukhara and Panunga ; in certain Achilpa or wild cat a 
predominance of Kumara and Purula, with a smaller number 
of Bulthara and Panunga. 

At the present day no totem is confined to either moiety of 
the tribe, but in each local centre we always find a great 
predominance of one moiety, as for example at Alice Springs, 
the most important centre of the witchetty grubs, where, 
amongst forty individuals, thirty-five belong to the Bulthara 
and Panunga, and five only to the other moiety of the tribe. 

These traditions with regard to the way in which the 
Alcheringa ancestors were distributed into companies, the 
members of which bore the same totem name and belonged, 
as a general rule, to the same moiety of the tribe, are of 
considerable importance when we come to consider the con- 
ditions which now obtain with regard to totems. It is not 
without importance to notice that the traditions of the tribe 
point back to a time when, for the most part, the members of 

' As sUled in connection with the description of the organisation of the trilie, 
the latter can be divided inlo two moieties, one comprising the Panunga and 
Bukhara, and the other the Purula and Kumara, or the equivalents of these. 



any particular totem were confined to one moiety of the tribe, 
in face of the fact that at the present day it seems to be a cha- 
racteristic featureof many tribes — such as the Urabunna, which 
are in a less highly developed state than the Arunta, Ilpirra 
and certain other tribes of Central Australia — that the totems 
are strictly confined to one or other of the two moieties of 
the tribe, and that they regulate marriage. At the same time it 
may again be pointed out that the totems in no way regulate 
marriage in the tribes mentioned, and, further still, we can find 
no evidence in any of the traditions, numerous and detailed 
as they are, of a time when marriage in these tribes was ever 
regulated by the totems. 

If now we turn to the traditions and examine those relating 
to certain totems which may be taken as-illustrative of the 
whole series, we find that they are concerned almost entirely 
with the way in which what we may call the Alcheringa 
members of the various totems came to be located in various 
spots scattered over the country now occupied by the tribe 
the members of which are regarded as their descendants, or, 
to speak more precisely, as their reincarnations. We will 
take as examples the following totems — Achilpa or wild cat, 
Unjiamba or Hakea flower, Unchichera or frc^, and 
Udnirringita or witchetty grub.^ 

In the Alcheringa there appear to have been four companies 
of wild cat men and women who, tradition says, appeared 
first in the southern part of the country. It has been already 
pointed out that, in the native mind, the ideas of the human 
and animal nature of these individuals are very closely 
associated together. Starting from the south out to the east 
of Charlotte Waters, one of these companies, consisting in this 
case of Bulthara and Panunga individuals, marched north- 
wards, keeping as they did so considerably to the east of the 
River Finke. A second and larger party, consisting of Purula 
and Kumara individuals, came from the south-west and, at a 
place not far from Henbury on the Finke River, divided into 
two parties. One of them crossed the Finke and went on 
northwards to the Macdonnel! Ranges, which were traversed 

' A detailed account of the wanderings of these ancestral groups is given in 
Chapcns X. and XI. 



a little to the east of Alice Springs, and then passed on 
northwards. The other half, forming the third party, followed 
up the Finke for some distance, crossing it at a spot now 
called Running Waters, after which the Macdonnell Ranges 
were traversed some twenty or twenty-five miles to the west 
of Alice Springs, and then the party passed on to the north 
in the direction of Central Mount Stuart. The fourth party, 
consisting of Purula and Kumara individuals, started from 
far away to the south-east, and travelled northwards, crossing 
the Range at Mount Sonder, and continued its course north- 
wards, so says tradition, until it reached the country of the 
salt water. 

The principal traditions with regard to the Unjiamba or 
Hakea flower totem refer to thewanderingsof certain women. 
In one account, two women of this totem are described as 
coming from a place about 35 miles to the north of Alice 
Springs, where they had a sacred pole or Nurtunja?- Start- 
ing southwards, they travelled first of all undei^round, and 
came out at a place called Arapera. Here they spent their 
time eating Unjiamba. Then leaving here they took their 
sacred pole or Nurtunja to pieces and travelled further on 
until they came to Ooraminna, in the Macdonnell Ranges, 
where there is a special water-hole close beside which they 
sat down and died, and two great stones arose to mark the 
exact spot where they died. In their journey these two 
women followed close by the track taken by one of the 
Achilpa parties, but did not actually come into contact with 
the latter, which was travelling in the opposite direction. 

In addition to these traditions of the wanderings of various 
companies of men and women belonging to different totems, 
we meet with others which refer to the origin of special indi- 
viduals, or groups of individuals, who did not wander about 
but lived and died where they sprang up. Thus, for example, 
an Inarlinga or " porcupine " (Echidna) man is supposed to 
have arisen near to Stuart's waterhole on the Hugh River, 

• Various forms of Nurlunja will be described in (he account of the Engwura 
ceremony. Each consists of a central support, made most often of one or more 
spears and wounil round wilh human hair string, which is then decorated with 



while at the Emily Gap, near to Alice Springs, tradition says 
that certain witchetty grubs became transformed into witchetty 
men, who formed a strong group here, and who were after- 
wards joined by others of the same totem, who marched over 
the country to the Gap. 

Each of these Alcheringa ancestors is represented as carry- 
ing about with him, or her, one or more of the sacred stones, 
which are called by the Arunta natives Churinga,i and each 
of these Churinga is intimately associated with the idea of 
the spirit part of some Individual. Either where they origin- 
ated and stayed, as in the case of certain of the witchetty 
grub people, or else where, during their wanderings, they 
camped for a time, there were formed what the natives call 
Oknanikiila, each one of which is in reality a local totem 
centre. At each of these spots, and they are all well known 
to the old men, who pass the knowledge on from generation 
to generation, a certain number of the Alcheringa ancestors 
nent into the ground, each one carrying his Churinga with 
Hitm. His body died, but some natural feature, such as a 
I rock or tree, arose to mark the spot, while his spirit part 
[—remained in the Churinga. At the same time many of the 
Churinga which they carried with them, and each one of 
which had associated with it a spirit individual, were placed 
in the ground, some natural object again marking the spot. 
rXhe result is that, as we follow their wanderings, we find that 
[the whole country is dotted over with Oknanikiila, or local 
totem centres, at each of which are deposite3~£nnnnter of 
Churinga, with spirit individuals associated with them. Each 
Oknanikiila is, of course, connected with one totem. In one 
part we have a definite locality, with its group of wild cat 
spirit individuals ; in another, a group of emu ; in another, a 
group of frc^, and so on through the various totems ; and it 
is this idea of spirit individuals associated with Churinga and 
resident in certain definite spots that lies at the root of the 
present totemic system of the Arunta tribe. 
As we have said, the exact spot at which a Churinga was 

' This Churinga is Ihe equivalent of the bull-roaier or whirlet of other authors, 
it has mch a special significance amongst these tribes that we shall use the local 



deposited was always marked by some natural object, such as 
a tree or rock, and in this the spirit is supposed to especially 
take up its abode, and it is called the spirit's Nanja} 

We may take the following as a typical example of how 
each man and woman gains a totem name. Close to Alice 
Springs is a large and important witchetty grub totem 
centre or Oknanikilla. Here there were deposited in the 
"Alcheringa a large number of Churinga carried by witchetty 
grub men and women. A large number of prominent rocks 
and boulders and certain ancient gum-trees along the sides 
of a picturesque gap in the ranges, are the Nanja trees and 
rocks of these spirits, which, so long as they remain in spirit 
form, they usually frequent. If a woman conceives a child 
after having been near to this gap, it is one of these spirit 
individuals which has entered her body, and therefore, quite 
irrespective of what the mother's or father's totem may 
chance to be, that child, when born, must of necessity be of 
the witchetty grub totem ; it is, in fact, nothing else but the 
reincarnation of one of the witchetty grub people of the 
Alcheringa, Suppose, for example, to take a particular and 
actual instance, an emu woman from another locality comes 
to Alice Springs, and whilst there becomes aware that she 
has conceived a child, and then returns to her own locality 
before the child is born, that child, though it may be horn 
in an emu locality, is an Udnirringita or witchetty grub. It 
must be, the natives say, because it entered the mother at 
Alice Springs, where there are only witchetty grub spirit indi- 
viduals. Had it entered her body within the limits of her own 
emu locality, it would as inevitably have been an emu. To 
take another example, quite recently the lubra or wife of a 
witchetty grub man, she belonging to the same totem, con- 
ceived a child while on a visit to a neighbouring Quatcha or 
water locality, which lies away to the east of Alice Springs, 
that child's totem is water ; or, again, an Alice Springs 
woman, when asked by us as to why her child was a witchettj' 
grub {in this instance belonging to the same totem as both 
of its parents), told us that one day she was taking a drink 
' Further details with r^ard 10 ihis, and the relationship of the spirit lo thir 
Nenja, ate given in Chapter XV. 



of water near to the gap in the Ranges where the spirits 
dwell when suddenly she heard a child's voice crying out, 
"Mia,mia !" — the native term for relationship which includes 
that of mother. Not being anxious to have a child, she ran 
away as fast as she could, but to no purpose ; she was fat and 
well favoured, and such women the spirit children prefer ; 
one of them had gone inside her, and of course it was bom a 
witchetty grub.^ 

The natives are quite clear upon this point The spirit 
children are supposed to have a strong predilection for fat 
women, and prefer to choose such for their mothers, even at 
the risk of being born into the wrong class. We are ac- 
quainted with special, but somewhat rare cases, in which a 
living man is regarded as the reincarnation of an Alcheringa 
ancestor whose class was not the same as that of his living 
representative. At Alice Springs there is a man who is an 
Uknaria belonging to the lizard totem, and is regarded as 
the reincarnation of a celebrated Purula lizard man of the 
Alcheringa. The spirit child deliberately, so the natives say, 
chose to go into a Kumara instead of into a Bulthara woman, 
and so the man was bom Uknaria instead of Purula. Though 
the class was changed, the totem could not possibly be. 

Such examples could be multiplied indefinitely ; but these, 
which may be taken as typical ones, will serve to show that, 
though at first sight puzzling, yet in reality the totem name 
follows a very definite system, if once we grant the premises 
firmly believed in by the Arunta native. 

One point of some interest is brought out by this inquiry 
into the origin of the totem names, and that is that, though 
the great majority of any one totem belong to one moiety of 
the tribe, yet there may be, and in fact always are, a certain 
number of members who belong to the other moiety. Just as 
in the Alcheringa, all the witchetty grub men were Bulthara 
and Panunga, so at the present day are the great majority of 
their descendants who inhabit the local areas in which the 
mythical ancestors formed witchetty totem centres. So, in 

' Spiiit children are also supposed to be especially fond of travelling in whirl- 
winds, and, on seeing one of these, which are very frequent at certain times of the 
year, approaching her, a woman will at once run away. 



the same way, all the Alcheringa emu ancestors were Purula 
and Kumara, as now are the great majority of their de- 
scendants, but, owing to the system according to which totem 
names are acquired, it is always possible for a man to be, say, 
a Purula or a Kumara and yet a witchetty, or, on the other 
hand, a Bulthara or a Panunga, and yet an emu. 

Two things are es sential — first a child must belong to the 
totem of the spot at which the mother believes that it was 
conceived, and, s econd^ it must belong to the moiety of the 
tribe to which its father belongs. Its totem never changes, 
but its class may. Once born into a totem, no matter 
what his class may be, a man, when initiated, may witness 
and take part in all the sacred ceremonies connected with 
the totem, but, unless he belong to the predominant moiety, 
he wilt never, or only in extremely rare cases, become the 
head man or Alatunja of any local group of the totem. 
His only chance of becoming Alatunja is by the death of 
every member of the group who belongs to the moiety to 
which the Alcheringa men belonged. 

What has gone before will serve to show what we mean 
by speaking of the totems as being local in their distribution. 
The whole district occupied by the Arunta, and the same 
holds true of the Ilpirra and Kaitish tribes, can be mapped 
out into a large number of areas of various sizes, some of 
which are actually only a few square yards in extent, while 
others occupy many square miles, and each of which centres 
in one or more spots, for which the native name is QkHoni- 
killa — a term which may be best rendered by the phrase 
" local totem cen tre." Each of these represents a spot where 
Alcheringa ancestors either originated or where they camped 
during their wanderings, and where some of them went down 
into the ground with their Churinga, or where they deposited 
Churinga. In any case the Churinga remained there, each 
one associated with a spirit individual, and from these have 
sprung, and still continue to spring, actual men and women 
who of necessity bear the totem name of the Churinga from 
which they come. 

We shall, later on, deal in greater detail with the traditions 
which are concerned with the wanderings of the ancestors of 



tlie local totem groups, and also with certain points of im- 
portance, such as the various ceremonies connected with the 
totems and, the relationship existing between the individual 
and his totem. It will be evident from the general account 
already given that the totemic system of the Arunta and 
other Central Australian tribes differs in important respects 
from those of other tribes which have hitherto been described. 
It is based upon the idea of the reincarnation of Alcheringa 
ancestors, who were the actual transformations of animals and 
plants, or of such inanimate objects as clouds or water, fire, 
wind, sun, moon and stars. To the Australian native there is 
no difficulty in the assumption that an animal or a plant 
could be transformed directly into a human being, or that the 
spirit part which he supposes it to possess, just as he does in 
his oivn case, could remain, on the death of the animal, 
associated with such an object as a Churinga, and at some 
future time arise in the form of a human being. 

The account which the Arunta native gives of the origin of 
the totemic names of the various members of the tribe is to him 
a perfectly feasible one. What gave rise in the first instance 
to the. association of particular men with particular animals 
and plants it does not seem possible to say. The Arunta 
man accounts for it by creating a series of myths, according to 
which he is the direct descendant of the animal or plant, and 
weaves in and around these myths details of the most 
circumstantial nature. 

We shall have to return to the question of the totems after 
certain of these myths of the Alcheringa have been related ; 
meanwhile it may be said that, though different in certain 
respects from that of other Australian tribes, yet the totemic 
system of the Arunta shows us the one essential feature 
common to all totemic systems, and that is the intimate 
association between the individual and the material object, 
the name of which he bears. 




Churinga when the child is born — The Ncaija tree or stone — Relationship 
between an individusl and his A'ar/ii — The Erfna/u!uifga oi Sacied storehouse ; 
its sanctity — The earliest rudiment of the idea of a dty of refuge— The spirit 
part placed in the Churii^a undergoes reincamalion — TheTundunin the case 
of the Jeroeil of the Kurnai Ictbe is associated with a great ancestor— No 
association between the Spirit part of the h(-ing man and his Churinga, but 
lictween the Arumbiiringa, the spirit double of the man, and the Churinga — 
The giving of a sacred or Chunnga name — Reticence with regard l'' ■— — • 
-Thcsho ' ' ■ ■ " 

names— The showing of his Churinga Nanja to a man — Eiamination of the 
Churinga at the Eriiialuluiiga — Ceremony concerned with telling a man his 
Churinga name — Exact contents of an Ertttaiulunga — The term "m 

Churinga at the Eriiialuluiiga — Ceremony concerned with telling a 
Churinga name — Exact contents of an Ertttaiulunga — The term "messaee- 
sttck" misleading as applied to the Churinga — £>escriptions of particaTaT 

Churinga, and explanation of the designs upon them — Resemblance between 
the initiation riles and Churinga of the Central tribes and those of Central 
Queensland, described l^ Mr, Roth — Absence of stone Churinga amongst 
southern groups — Ownership of the Churinga — Extinction and subsequent 
resuscitation of a local totemic group — The Churinga taken charge of by 
another group — Examplesof extinction of local totemic groups— The Churinga 
are under the charge of the Alatunja — Inheritance of Churinga of men and 
women — Various forms of Churinga — The Churinga of the Kaitish and 
Waagai tribes — The borrowing and returning of Churinga ; ceremonies 
attendant upon the same. 

Churinga is the name given by the Arunta natives to 
certain sacred objects which, on penalty of death or very 
severe punishment, such as blinding by means of a fire-stick, 
are never allowed to be seen by women or uninitiated men. 
The term is applied, as we shall see later, to various objects 
associated with the totems, but of these the greater number 
belong to tl^pt class of rounded, oval or elongate, flattened 
stones and slabs of wood of ver>- various sizes, to the smaller 
ones of which the name of bull-roarer is commonly applied. 

The importance and use of these in various ceremonies 
such as those attendant upon initiation of the young men, was 


r, Chimbaliri of the Urabunna tribe ; z, Churinga of bell-bird totem, Luritcha 
tribe ; 3, Churinga of fri^ totem, Aninta tribe ; 4, Churinga of lizard 
totem, Arunta. tribe ; 5, Churinga of emu totem, Arunla tribe ) 6, Very old 
Churinga of lizard totem, Arunla tribe ; 7, Churinga wrapped in bark as 
it is when carried about. 



first shown in Australia by Messrs. Howitt and Fison, and 
since then they have been repeatedly referred to by other 

Amongst the aborigines of the Centre, as indeed everywhere 
else where they are found, considerable mystery is attached 
to their use — a mystery which has probably had a large part 
of its origin in the desire of the men to impress the women of 
the tribe with an idea of the supremacy and superior power of 
the male sex. From time immemorial myths and super- 
stitions have grown up around them, until now it is difficult to 
say how far each individual believes in what, if the expression 
may be allowed, he must know to be more or less of a fraud, 
but in which he implicitly thinks that the other natives 

Whilst living in close intercourse with the natives, spending 
the days and nights amongst them in their camps while they 
were preparing for and then enacting their most sacred cere- 
monies, and talking to them day after day, collectively and 
individually, we were constantly impressed with the idea, as 
probably many others have been before, that one blackfellow 
will often tell you that he can and does do something magical, 
whilst all the time he is perfectly well aware that he cannot, 
and yet firmly believes that some other man can really do it. 
In order that his fellows may not be considered in this respect 
as superior to himself he is obliged to resort to what is really 
a fraud, but in course of time he may even come to lose sight 
of the fact that it is a fraud which he is practising upon 
himself and his fellows. At all events, and especially in 
connection with the Churinga, there are amongst the Australian 
natives beliefs which can have had no origin in fact, but 
which have gradually grown up until now they are implicitly 
held. It is necessary to realise this aspect of the native 
mind in order to understand the influence which some of 
their oldest and most sacred beliefs and customs have upon 
their lives. 

We may say at once that the Churinga are one and all 
connected with the totems, and that the word signifies a 
sacred object, sacred because it is thus associated with the 
totems and may never be seen except upon very rare occasions. 


C, ai.— STONE 

Ta, Churinga enclosed in humnn hair string and carried aboul t<^elher, Arunta tribe j 
2, Churinga of euro lotetn, Arunta tribe ; 3, Churinga of water totem, Arunta tribe ; 
4, Churinga of wilchMty grub tolem, Arunta tribe j 5, Churinea of Hakea tree tolem, 
Aninta tribe ; 6, 7, Churinga and feather covering of the Warramunga tribe ; 8, g, 
Churinga of the Kaitbh tribe. 

K 2 



and then only in the distance and indistinctly by women and 
uninitiated men. 

In the last chapter we described the association between 
men of the Alcheringa and their Churinga. We saw that 
each spirit individual was closely bound up with his Churinga, 
which he carried with him as he wandered about his ancestral 
home, the Oknanikilla, or rested on the Nanja tree or stone 
which he is supposed especially to frequent. 

The tradition of the natives is that when the spirit child 
goes inside a woman the Churinga is dropped. When the 
child is born the mother tells the father the position of the 
tree or rock near to which she supposes the child to have 
entered her, and he, together with one or two of the older men, 
who are close relatives of the man, and of whom the father of 
the latter is usually one, and also an elder brother of the 
father, goes to the locality, at once if It be near at hand, or 
when opportunity offers if it be distant, and searches for the 
dropped Churinga. The latter is usually, but not always, 
supposed to be a stone one marked with a device peculiar to 
the totem of the spirit child and therefore of the newly-bom 
one. Sometimes it is found, sometimes it is not. In the 
former case, which is stated to occur often, we must suppose 
that some old man — it is most often the Arunga or paternal 
grandfather who finds it — has provided himself with one for 
the occasion, which is quite possible, as Churinga belonging to 
their own totem are not infrequently carried about by the old 
men, who obtain them from the sacred storehouse in which 
they are kept. We questioned native after nati\-e on this 
subject — some of them had actually found such stones — but 
there was no shakipg them in the firm belief that such a 
Churinga was always dropped by the spirit child whether it 
was found or not If it cannot be found then they proceed 
to make a wooden one from the Mulga or other hard wood 
tree nearest to the Nanja, and to carve on it some device or 
brand peculiar to the totem. 

Ever afterwards the Nanja tree or stone of the spirit is the 
Nanja of the child, and the Churinga is its Churinga nanja. 

As might have been expected, there is a definite relation- 
ship supposed to exist between an individual and his Nanja 



tree or stone. Whilst the belief is by no means general at 
the present time, there is at least one definite case known to 
us in which a blackfellow earnestly requested a white man 
not to cut down a particular tree because it was his Nanja 
tree, and he feared that if cut down some evil would befall 
him. Very possibly in times past this feeling was more 
widely prevalent than it is now. At the present time the 
special association between a man and his Nanja tree lies in 
the fact that every animal upon that tree" is ekirinja or tabu 
to him. If an opossum or a bird be in the tree it is sacred 
and must not on any account be touched. There is no special 
■ceremony performed by the individual in reference to his 
Nanja tree, but it is one In which he is supposed to have a 
special interest as having been the home of the spirit whose 
reincarnation he is. 

In each OknanikUla or local totem centre, there is a spot 
called by the natives the Ertnatulunga. This is, in reality, a 
sacred storehouse, which usually has the form of a small cave 
or crevice in some unfrequented spot amongst the rough hills 
and ranges which abound in the area occupied by the tribe. 
The entrance is carefully blocked up with stones so naturally 
arranged as not to arouse suspicion of the fact that they 
conceal from view the most sacred possessions of the tribe. 
In this, often carefully tied up in bundles, are numbers of the 
Churinga, and in one or other of these storehouses every 
member of the tribe, men and women alike, is represented by 
his or her Churinga nanja. When, after the birth of a child, 
one of the latter is found, or made, it is handed over to the 
headman of the local totem group within the district occupied 
by which the child was conceived, and ts by him deposited in 
the Ertnatulunga. 

The spot at which the child was bom and brought up, and 
at which it will spend probably the greater part of its life, has 
nothing whatever to do with determining the resting place of 
the Churinga nanja. That goes naturally to the storehouse 
of the locality from which the spirit child came — that is to 
the spot where the Churinga was deposited in the Alcheringa. 
In the case, for example, which has already been quoted, in 
which a witchetty woman conceived a child in an emq 



and tb 
In ■ 



:iated not only with the living members of the tribe, but 

with the dead ones. Indeed, many of the Churinga are 

: of special men of the Alcheringa, who, as tradition relates, 

■lered about and descended at these spots into the earth 

e their Churinga, the very ones which are now within the 

jhouse, remained associated with their spirit part. Each 

ringa is so closely bound up with the spirit individual 

. it is regarded as its representative in the Etinaluiunga, 

those of dead men are supposed to be endowed with the 

ibutes of their owner and to actually impart these to the 

son who, for the time being, may, as when a fight takes 

ce, be fortunate enough to carry it about with him.^ The 

uringa is supposed to endow the possessor with courage 

1 accuracy of aim, and also to deprive his opponent of 

;se qualities. So firm is their belief in this that if two men 

re fighting and one of them knew that the other carried a 

luringa whilst he did not, he would certainly lose heart at 

ice and without doubt be beaten. 

The Erinatulunga may be regarded as the early rudiment 
f a city or house of refuge. Everything in its immediate 
icinity is sacred and must on no account be hurt ; a man 
■ ho was being pursued by others would not be touched so 
ong as he remained at this spot During the Engwura 
:eremony, when temporary storehouses were made to hold 
:he lai^e number of Churinga which were brought in to the 
ceremonial ground, and when, as always happens when men 
from diflferent parts are assembled in large number, there 
arose any small quarrel, no display of arms was allowed 
anywhere near to the stores of Churinga, If the men wanted 
to quarrel they had to go right away from the Churinga 

Tlie loss of Churinga is the most serious evil which could 
befall a group, but, though it might have been expected that 

' A lemoiksble cuslom with regard lo slone Churinga may be noticed here. 
When a nuui is ill he will lometimes have a stooe Churinga belonging to his tolem 
Iraaght from the storehouse. With the flint flake of hb speu-thrower he will scrape 
off loiDe of the edge of the Chotinga, mix the dust with water and drink it, the 
miiinre being supposed lo be veiy strengthening. The idea evidently is that in 
Kme wajr he absorbs part of the essence of the stone, thereby gsinii^ strength, as 
it is eulowed with the attributes of the individual whom it represents. 



stealing them would have been resorted to in times of fighting 
between different groups, yet this does not seem to take 
place. This is probably to be accounted for in various ways. 
In the first place the exact spot, which is under the charge 
primarily of the headman of the group and of the older men 
associated with him, is only known to the initiated men of 
the group, all of whom are equally and deeply interested in 
keeping the secret. Beyond this any interference by a 
stranger would surely result sooner or later in the death of 
the latter. The knowledge also that retaliation of a similar 
kind would inevitably follow must have acted as a strong 
deterrent on any individual or group who was at all anxious 
to interfere with other peoples' Churinga. Whatever the 
reasons for it may be the fact remains that on the very few 
occasions on which we could find out that the Ertnatulunga 
had been robbed the ^^ressors were white men. On each 
occasion also the natives have attempted to kill the member 
of the tribe who had shown the spot to the white men, and 
would certainly have been successful in so doing but for the 
protection afforded to the guide by the latter. In the case 
of the removal of the Churinga from one of these Ertnatulunga, 
the men of the group to which they belonged stayed in camp 
for two weeks weeping and mourning over their loss and 
plastering themselves over with white pipeclay, the emblem 
of mourning for the dead. 

Whilst, on the one hand, the Churinga seem to be safe from 
robbers, so far as the natives are concerned, on the other hand, 
as we shall see shortly, they are occasionally lent as an act of 
courtesy by one group to another friendly group. 

We have already said that the original Churinga — that is 
those of the Alcheringa, with regard to the origin of which 
the natives have no tradition — are all, or at least the great 
majority of them, supposed to have been of stone. What 
was the origin of these we have been unable to determine ; 
they were present in the Alcheringa, and behind that it is 
impossible to penetrate. Once we ventured to inquire 
whether there was no story relating how the Alcheringa men 
came to have them, but the mirth which the question provoked 
showed us that to the mind of the Arunta native the idea 



of the possibility of anything before the Alcheringa was a 
ridiculous and an incomprehensible one. In this tribe "It 
was so in the Alcheringa " takes the place of the more usual 
form of expression : " Our fathers did it, and therefore we do 
it," which is so constantly the only reply which the ethnolo- 
gical inquirer receives to the question : " Why ? " 

We have evidently in the Churinga belief a modification of 
the idea which finds expression in the folklore of so many 
peoples, and according to which primitive man, regarding his 
soul as a concrete object, imagines that he can place it in 
some secure spot apart, if needs be, from his body, and thus, if 
the latter be in any way destroyed, the spirit part of him still 
persists unharmed. The further extension of the idea 
according to which the spirit can undergo reincarnation is, 
at least so far as Australian tribes are known, a feature 
peculiar to the Central tribes. At the same time we are not 
without indications that possibly other tribes, though the 
system is not so highly developed as in the case of the 
Arunta, may to a certain extent associate with the bull-roarer 
the idea of the spirit part of some great ancestor. We are not 
referring to the fact that, as Mr, Howitt first showed, and as 
has since been abundantly verified by other workers, the 
women and children are taught to believe that the voice of 
the bull-roarer is that of some spirit such as Daramulun, but 
in Mr. Hewitt's paper dealing with the Jeraeil of the Kurnai 
tribe ^ we meet with the still more suggestive fact that at a 
certain time during the initiation ceremonies the men who 
are in charge of the novices say to them, " This afternoon 
we will take you, and show your grandfather to you." 
" This," says Mr. Howitt, " is the cryptic phrase used to 
describe the central ■ mystery, which in reality means the 
exhibition to the novices of the Tundun, and the revelation 
to them of ancestral beliefs." The Tundun is the native 
name amongst the Kurnai for the bull-roarer. In this 
account we see, first, that the bull-roarer is identified with a 
man who is r^arded as a great ancestor or Weitwin, that is 
father's father of the Kurnai. He it was who conducted the 
first ceremony of initiation, and he made the bull-roarer which 
* /«irB. Ami. Inil., May, 1885, p. 301. 



bears his name and also made another smaller one which 
represents his wife. It is quite possible that under a some- 
what modified form we have in this legend of the Kumai an 
expression of the same idea as that which has undergone stili 
further development in the case of the tribes in the centre of 
the continent. 

To return however to the Arunta. We meet in tradition 
with unmistakable traces of the idea that the Churinga is the 
dwelling place of the spirit of the Alcheringa ancestors. In 
one special group of Achilpa men, for example, the latter ar& 
reported to have carried about a sacred pole or Nurtunja with 
them during their wanderings. When tiiey came to a camp- 
ing place and went out hunting the Nurtunja was erected, and 
upon this the men used to hang their Churinga when they 
went out from camp, and upon their return they took them 
down again and carried them about. In these Churinga they 
kept, so says the tradition, their spirit part. 

Whilst this is so with regard to the Alcheringa men and 
women it must be clearly pointed out that at the present day 
the Arunta native does not regard the Churinga as the abode 
of his own spirit part, placed in the Ertnatulunga for safe 
keeping. If anything happens to it — if it be stolen — he 
mourns over it deeply and has a vague idea that some ill may- 
befall him, but he does not imagine that damage to the 
Churinga of necessity means destruction to himself In the 
native mind the value of the Churinga, at the present day» 
whatever may have been the case in past time, lies in the fact 
that each one is intimately associated with, and is indeed the 
representative of, one of the Alcheringa ancestors, with the 
attributes of whom it is endowed.^ When the spirit part has 
gone into a woman and a child has, as a result, been born,, 
then that living child is the reincarnation of that particular 
spirit individual. 

Not only does each member of the tribe have a Churinga 
nanja but, shortly after the birth of the child, the headman of 

' In addition id this the AmmburiHga of the individual (that is his spirit double} 
is supposed to be especially fond of paying visits to the stoiehouse in which tbe 
Chuiinga is kept, and it is feared that if the Churinga be taken away the Amm- 
turiiiga will follow it, and thus the individual will lose the guardian^p of the 



the particular group in whose Ertnatulunga the Churmga is^ 
deposited consults with the older men of the group and 
bestows upon him (and the same holds true in the case of a 
female child) his Art'tna c/iuringa, or secret name.^ Every 
member of the tribe has his or her secret name, which may be 
either a new one or that of some celebrated man or woman of 
the Alcheringa whose name has been handed down in the 
traditions. This secret name is never uttered except upon 
the most solemn occasions when the Churinga are being 
examined, and that of any particular individual is only known 
to the fully initiated men of his own local totem group. To 
utter such a name in the hearing of women or of men of 
another group would be a most serious breach of tribal 
custom, as serious as the most flagrant case of sacrilege amongst 
white men. When mentioned at all it is only in a whisper, 
and then after taking the most elaborate precautions* lest it 
should be heard by anyone outside the members of his own 
group. The native thinks that a stranger knowing his 
secret name would have special power to work him ill by 
means of magic. 

Before being allowed to see the Ertnatulunga the native 
must have passed through the ceremonies of circumcision and 
subincision, and have shown himself capable of self-restraint 
and of being worthy by his general demeanour to be admitted 
to the secrets of the tribe. If he be what the natives call 
irkun okmrra, that is, light and frivolous and too much 
given to chattering like a woman, it may be many years 

' Aritna meflns name, and Churinga signifies sacred or secret. The word 
ChuringB. Is used either as a substantive, when it implies a. sacred emblem, oi as 
a qiulifying tenn, when it implies sacred or secret. 

' Duiing the course of the Engwurawe often had occasion to notice this extreme 
reticence on the part of the natives. If only men of the same totemic group were 
present we were then able to learn the secret names, though not easily, as the)' 
nould only speak in such a low whisper that it was a matter of difficulty to hear 
what was said. If other men were present then it was impassible to gain the in- 
formation, for, when questioned, they knew absolutely nothing about the matter. 
aod assumed an air of frigid reticence. We soon learned lo know that this meant 
not that they were unable to reply to our questions, but that tribal custom forbade 
them to speak in the presence of some member of the party. When talking with 
them over matters such as this they would send away certain men before saying 
anything, and these men were those who did not belong to the totemic grou|>. 
about which we were inquiring. 



before he is admitted to the secrets. When he is thought 
-worthy of the honour, and at a time appointed by the 
Alatunja of the local group to which he belongs, he is taken, 
■accompanied by the older men, to the Ertnatulunga. There 
he is shown the sacred Churinga which are examined care- 
fully and reverently, one by one, while the old men tell him 
to whom they now belong or have belonged. While this is 
going on a low singing of chants referring to the Alcheringa 
is kept up, and at its close the man is told his Churinga name 
and cautioned against ever allowing any one, except the men 
of his own group, to hear it uttered. Then, at least in the 
■witchetty group in which we have witnessed the performance, 
he is painted on the face and body with a kind of pinkish 
-soapstone and red ochre by the Alatunja and the older men 
who stand to him in the relationship of Oknia, that is actual 
■or tribal father. The pattern with which he is decorated 
represents the particular device belonging to the totem, and 
in this instance consisted of long parallel bands copied from 
the sacred painting which from time immemorial has existed 
on a smooth rock surface in the Emily gap, the local centre 
of the witchetty grub totem. When this has been done the 
party returns to camp and the painting is allowed to remain 
■on the man's body until in course of time it wears off. The 
old women are aware that he has been to the ErlnatuluHga, 
but even they have no idea of the nature of the ceremony, 
^nd to the younger ones it is still more a matter of deep 
mystery, for no women in the natural condition of the tribe 
dare go near to the gap in which is the sacred rock painting, 
and near to which lies the Ertnatulunga. 

The exact contents of the Ertnatulunga vary of course 
from group to group, important ones containing a large 
number of Churinga many of which will be stone, but perhaps 
in the majority of cases the wooden ones will predominate. 
It does not, of course, follow that even a majority of them will 
belong to the totem with which the locality is associated ; 
for, owing to, first, the way in which Churinga are inherited, 
and second, the fact that one group wilt sometimes lend a 
certain number to a friendly group, Churinga belonging to 
various totems will always be found in one Ertnatulunga. 



We give as a fair example of a small-sized Ertnatuluttga- 
an account of the contents of a sacred storehouse of the 
Yarumpa or honey-ant totem at a place called llyaba, away 
to the north-west of Alice Springs. The Ertnatulunga itself 
is a round hole in the side of a rocky hill, which hole was in 
the Alcheringa an ant nest What may be called the prize of 
the collection is the Churinga, though it is only a small 
wooden one, of a celebrated Alcheringa leader of the Yarumpa 
people named llatirpa, who sent out the wandering bands of 
Yarumpa from llyaba, the great centre of the totem. A 
long stone Churinga represents a mass of honey which he 
carried with him and fed upon, and a slender stone Churinga,. 
pointed at each end, represents a piece of wood which he- 
used for digging out the honey-ants. These two are the only- 
stone ones in the storehouse which in this respect is rather 
poor. There are sixty-eight wooden Yarumpa Churinga 
and several Echunpa or lizard ones, three of which are very- 
old and boomerang-shaped, and have been borrowed from a 
lizard group living near Hermannsburg on the Finke. In 
addition to these there are two Achilpa or wild cat Churinga 
which have been lent to a Yarumpa man by his son-in-law for 
a time. 

We may now describe more in detail the Churinga them- 
selves — that is ^the Churinga which are associated with the 
individuals and which, by various writers, have been described 
as ceremonial sticks and stones, festival plates, message-sticks- 
or magic-sticks. The term message-stick is misleading ; it is 
quite true that one or more of them is carried by certain 
messengers sent to summon other members of the tribe to 
ceremonies of various kinds, but there is nothing in common 
between them and other message-sticks such as are found in 
other parts of the continent, on which notches and marks of 
different kinds are cut as an aid to the memory of the 
messenger, but which without the verbal explanation of the 
messenger would, in no case, so far as we have reliable 
evidence, be capable of being deciphered by the recipient of 
the message. The Churinga carried by an Arunta messenger 
is, in reality, a badge of office showing the bona fides of the 
bearer, whose person is safe so long as he carries the sacred 



emblem, and though the showing of the Churinga is regarded 
in the light of a summons which cannot, except at the risk of 
a serious quarrel, be neglected, yet it is misleading to apply 
the same term, message-stick, both to the sacred emblem, 
and to the stick, the marks, if any, on which are quite 
arbitrarily drawn by the sender and cannot be deciphered 
without his assistance. We may remark In passing, that though 
we have made careful inquiry we have been unable to 
discover the use of any real message-stick in the Arunta 

The Churinga of the Arunta — that is the particular ones 
with which we are now concerned — are of two descriptions, 
stone ones and wooden ones, the latter being sometimes 
spoken of as Churinga irula. The wooden one, just like the 
stone one, is Churinga — indeed, the term irula, which simply 
means " dressed wood," is seldom used by the natives, and 
then only as a qualifying term, and never by itself. The 
stone is no more sacred than the wooden one, and is most highly- 
valued if it be, as many of them are, associated with some 
special Alcheringa ancestor. At the same time there are 
often wooden ones of evidently great antiquity, pieced 
together with sinew of kangaroo or emu to prevent them 
falling to pieces through decay of the less durable portions, 
and with holes carefully filled up with porcupine -grass resin, 
and such as these, though insignificant in appearance, are yet 
as highly valued as the stone ones. It may be generally said 
that the value of any particular Churinga, in the eyes of the 
natives, varies inversely with its value from a decorative point 
of view ; the more obliterated the design, the more it has 
been patched with resin and bound together with sinew, the 
more highly is it valued, and the careful way in which many 
of them have been thus preserved shows the value which is 
placed upon them by the natives. 

Amongst the Churinga in each storehouse are usually a 
certain number of especially large ones made by Alcheringa 
men, or by specially celebrated men of olden times who lived 
since the Alcheringa, for the purpose of being used in the 

' A most valuable account of true message-sticks is given by Roth, lot. cil., 
p. 136- 



performance of ceremonies connected with the totems. These 
are spoken of as Churinga, but they differ from the majority 
in that there is not associated with them the idea of a spirit 
individual. In addition to these there are also at times other 
forms of Churinga present in the storehouse which represent 
such objects, for example, as the eggs of the witchetties, or in 
some cases a special object such as a pitcki which was carried 
about by an Alcheringa man, or a yam-stick carried by a 

In size and shape they differ much. The smallest will be 
perhaps three or four inches in length, the longest five feet or 
more. In the Arunta tribe all, with very rare exceptions, are 
more or less flattened and either oval (rarely roughly circular) 
in outline, or, most usually, elongate with either end tapering 
to a more or less rounded point Five very old wooden Churinga 
which belonged to two lizard totems differed from all the 
others of which, in company with the members of the various 
groups to which they belong, we have seen and examined 
many hundreds, in having the shape of a curved boomerang. 

The stone ones are always flat on either side, the wooden 
ones may be of the same form or more usually have one side 
flat, and the other slightly concave, or they may frequently be 
concavo-convex in transverse section. A certain number of 
the smaller ones — but this is not usual in those of more than a 
foot in length — have a hole pierced through them at one end 
to which is attached a string usually made of human or 
opossum hair. Those that are bored in this way and arc 
only a few inches in length are used as bull-roarers during 
certain ceremonies, the sound being produced by whirling 
them rapidly round with the string kept taut between the 
hand and the bull-roarer, the latter rotating as it whirls 
through the air, and tightening the string which vibrates 
and produces the roaring sound. A certain number of the 
stone ones are bored like the wooden ones, but such are never 
used as bull-roarers, nor indeed, at the present day, for any 
purpose which would require them to be thus bored. At the 
same time it may be pointed out that we have traditions 
according to which, in the Alcheringa, the men used to hang 
up their Churinga on the Nurtunja ; for this purpose they 



would require to be bored, and though at the present day- 
there is no need for this, yet that it is sometimes practised is 
no doubt to be associated with the myths of the Alcheringa. 

The stones are usually micaceous in nature, being split off" 
from suitable rock, and then carefully ground down to the 
desired shape and size. The wooden ones are generally 
made of Mulga {Acacia aneurd) for the simple reason first, that 
this wood is the hardest and most durable known to the 
natives, and second, that the tree is perhaps the most widely 
distributed of any species throughout the great Central area 
and therefore easily obtainable. If, however, Mulga be not 
obtainable, then it may be made of the pine {Callitris sp.) or 
of some species of Eucalyptus the wood of which (such as 
that of E. iesselaris) the natives have learnt by long 
experience, is not touched by white ants. 

In the great majority of cases the Churinga, wooden ones 
and stone alike, have patterns incised on their surfaces, the 
tool used being usually an incisor tooth of an opossum, with 
which also the hole at one end, if present, is bored. In some 
cases, though these are quite in a minority, they are perfectly 
plain and show no markings of any kind, and in others, such 
as were once present, are now scarcely decipherable, owing to 
the constant rubbing to which they have been subjected at 
the hands of generation after generation of natives. 

Whenever the Churinga are examined by the old men • 
they are, especially the wooden ones, very carefully rubbed 
over with the hands. First of all dry red ochre is powdered 
on to them, and then rubbed in with the palm of the hand,, 
the grease of which doubtless assists in preserving the wood 
to a certain extent. The stone ones are, some of them, rubbed 
with red ochre, but others with charcoal, which is never used 
in the case of the wooden ones. 

We now come to deal with the patterns on the Churinga 
all of which have a definite meaning attached to them, though 
to decipher each individual one, it is essential to gain the 
information from a man of the totem to which it belongs. 
Other natives may volunteer information, but as the same 
' A full account of Ihi-i is given in connection with the description of the 



device will mean one thing to a native of one totem and quite 
another thing to a man who belongs to another totem, and as 
a man's knowledge is strictly confined to the designs of his 
own totem, it is quite unsafe to ask, say, an emu man to 
describe to you the markings on a wild cat Churinga, or 
vice vers&. 

The whole design consists, with few exceptions, of a con- 
ventional arrangement of circular, semi -circular, spiral, curved 
and straight lines together often with dots. The most frequent 
design met with is that of a series of concentric circles or a 
close set spiral, the sets of circles or the spirals varying in 
number from two or three to as many as twenty, or even 
more ; and these, when present, usually indicate the most 
important object which it is intended to represent in the 
whole design. In one Churinga each will represent a tree, on 
another a frog, on another a kangaroo and so on, so that it 
will easily be realised that to obtain a true interpretation of 
any one Churinga, it is absolutely essential to obtain the 
information from some one to whom it is personally known, 
and such an one can only be an old man of the particular local 
totemic group to which it belongs ; it is only the old men 
who continually see and examine the Churinga of the group, 
which are very rarely indeed seen by any one who does not belong 
to the latter. Time after time, when th.e Ertnatulunga is visited, 
the Churinga are rubbed over and carefully explained by the 
old men to the younger ones, who in course of time come to 
know all about them that the old men can impart, and so the 
knowledge of whom the Churinga have belonged to, and 
what the design on each one means, is handed on from 
generation to generation. 

We will now explain the meaning of the designs on a few of 
the Churinga, as these will serx'e to illustrate and to give some 
general idea of them. The descriptions now given were 
obtained from the special individual in charge of whom the 
Churinga was, which is described in each instance. 

Figure A. represents the Churinga nanja of a dead man of 
the fn^ totem. On either side of the Churinga, which is a 
wooden onie 39 cm. in length, are three large series of 
concentric circles (a), which represent three large and 



celebrated gum-trees which grow by the side of the Hugh 
River at Imanda, the centre of the particular group of the frc^ 

FlgA. m-H. 

totem to which the owner of the totem belonged ; the straight 
lines ip) passing out from them on one side of the Churinga 



represent their lai^e roots, and the two series of curved lines 
at one end (c) their smaller roots. These trees are intimately 
associated with the frog totem, as out of them frogs are 
supposed to come, which is doubtless an allusion to the fact 
that in the cavities of old gum-trees one species of frc^ is 
often found, and can be always heard croaking before the 
advent of rain. The smaller series of concentric circles on the 
same side of the Churinga (t/) represent smaller gum-trees, the 
lines attached to them being their roots, and the dotted lines 
(e) along the edge are the tracks of the frogs as they hop 
about in the sand of the river bed. On the opposite side of the 
Churinga the lai^e series of double concentric circles represent 
small frogs which have come out of the trees, and the lines 
connecting them are their 

limbs. This device of small — 

concentric circles united by 
lines is a very common one 
on frog Churinga. 

Figure B, represents the ' 

Churinga nanja of the cele- 
brated Ilatirpaof the Yarumpa , 
or honey-ant totem, and is in ' 
the storehouse at Ilyaba. The 
series of circles {<?) with a 
■ hole bored in the middle of t 
them represent the eye. The € I 
circles (i) represent the in- ; 
testines, (c) the painting on r | 
the stomach, and {d) the pos- 1 
terior part of the man. On 
the reverse side the circles (.£) 
represent the intestines of the 
Alatirpa, a little bird which 
is regarded as the mate of the 

Figure C. represents the fiff-u. 

Churinga of an Achilpa or 

wild cat man. The three series of circles (a) represent Un- 
jiamba or Hakea trees, while the circles of spots {b) represent 

L 2 




the tracks of the men dancing round them. The lines (d) 
represent the Wanpa sticks, which are beaten together to keep 
time to the dancing ; and the dots (e) represent again the 
tracks of dancing men. This Churinga is in the store-house 
at Imanda, and was used during the Engwura ceremony. 



Figure D, represents the Churinga of an Udnirringita 
or witchetty grub man, and is in the Emily Gap store-house. 
The curved lines (a) represent a large grub, {i>) represents a 
lot of grubs in a hole which is scooped out in the ground, 




and (c) represents a man sitting down and squeezing the dirt 
out of the animals preparatory to cooking them. On the 
reverse side, (d) represents a grub, {e) the e^s of various 
sizes, and (/) marks on the body of the grub. 

Figure E. represents one side of the Ckuringa tianja of 
the elder of the two women who accompanied the Ulpmirka 
men of the Ukakia or plum-tree totem {Santalum sfi.) in the 

b -eg J^ 

Alcheringa, and were taken away to the north by a celebrated 
individual called Kukaitcha. The three series of concentric 
circles (a) represent frogs, the two outer rows of dots 
represent the tracks of the women. The lines across the 
Churinga (^) represent bark of gum-trees, and the curved 
lines at one end (c) represent an old woman collecting frogs. 
Figure F. represents one side of the Churinga nanja of 
the younger of the same two women. Here again thp 




circles (a) represent frt^s, the semi-circles (*) 
represent women sitting down opposite to each 
other, while the dots between them (c) are the 
holes which they make in scratching the frogs 
out of the sand. The three dotted lines at the 
end (a) bored through represent the vulva. 

Figure G. represents the Churinga nanja of 
an Echunpa or lizard man (the large lizard, 
Varanus giganteus), and is remarkable as being 
one of the only five Chur- 
inga of this shape which 
we have seen amongst a 
very great number. On 
one side the greater part is 
occupied by four roughly 
parallel, sinuous lines which 
represent the long tail of 
the animal ; the semi-cir- 
cular lines are the indica- 
tions of ribs, and the dotted 
lines at one end are the 
tracks. On the other side, 
{a) represents the shoulder 
of the animal ; {b') the 
spotted black marks across 
the chest ; {c) the large 
ribs — those, as the natives 
say, with much fat on them ; 
{d) the smaller ribs, and {e) 
the spotted marks along 
the under surface of the 
animal. This Churinga was 
evidently a very old one ; 
it was slightly broken at 
one end, and by constantly 
, repeated rubbing the design 

f^'^' j was indistinct in parts. 

The workmanship of the 
varies to a considerable extent in its quality 




on some the lines are clearly cut, and, considering the hard- 
ness of the material and the crudity of the tool used, the 
result is surprisingly good so far as the regularity of the 
design is concerned ', but in all cases the design is a purely 
conventional one, and never attempts to indicate in form 
the specific object which it is supposed to represent, or 
rather to indicate. The most important feature is almost 
always indicated by a series of concentric circles or by spiral 
lines, while tracks of men and animals seem to be repre- 
sented by dots arranged in circular or straight lines. Indi- 
vidual men and women appear to be uniformly represented 
by semi-circular lines, and may be said, speaking generally, to 
be regarded as subordinate to the animal or plant indi- 
cated in the design by complete circles or spirals, though, as 
will be noted, the latter is not by any means of necessity the 
totem of the individual to whom the Churinga belongs. 
When dealing later on with the decorative art of the natives 
we shall refer further to these designs ; meanwhile it may be 
pointed out here that the concentric circles appear to have 
been derived from what was originally a spiral, and not vice 
■versa. Whence the Central natives derived a style of 
decoration of their sacred objects which is so entirely different 
from that of the tribes living both on the east coast and to the 
west of them, it is difficult to understand. One thing is 
certain, and that is that wherever they derived it from they 
have had it for long ages, as it is associated with their oldest 
traditions. The entirely different scheme of ornamentation 
found amongst the tribes of the eastern and south-eastern 
coasts, of the centre and of the west, points to the fact that 
these three large groups, each of which consists of many 
tribes, must have diverged from one another at an early date, 
and that each one has since pursued its own path of 
development practically uninfluenced by the others. In 
connection with this it may be noted that, though as yet but 
Utile is known concerning the West Australian natives, the 
initiation riles of the Eastern coastal tribes, whilst they agree 
in all important points amongst themselves, are markedly 
different from those of the Central tribes, including amongst 
these those of the internal parts of Queensland and New 



South Wales, in regard to certain of which we have recently- 
had most valuable information published in the monograph 
by Mr. W. E. Roth, dealing in great detail with the north- 
west-central Queensland aborigines. The physical conditions 
of the continent have also been such as to shut off for probably 
long ages the Central tribes from those of either the eastern 
and south-eastern coastal districts, or those of the west. 

At the same time, though the initiation rites of the tribes 
described by Mr, Roth are closely similar to those of the 
Central tribes, and though certain of the bull-roarers figured 
by him are identical in form and ornamentation with those 
of the latter, and are, as he describes, used in connection with 
initiation ceremonies and as love charms, and may not be 
seen by women, yet there does not appear to be the significance 
attached to them in the tribes studied by Mr. Roth that there 
is in the Central tribes. 

Various local groups differ to a great extent in the number 
of the Churinga in their possession, and amongst some, 
especially in the southern part of the tribe, stone ones may 
be absent, and only wooden ones present. Why this is so we 
cannot say ; the natives themselves simply say that originally 
all totem groups had stones ones, and that those which have 
not got them now have lost them ; but if this be so, it is not 
easy to understand why, as is actually the case, it is only in 
the south that we meet with groups without any stone 
Churinga. A group without any of the stone ones is certainly 
regarded as inferior to a group which does possess them ; and 
possibly this absence of them in the south may point back to 
a time when they were stolen. 

We now come to deal with the question of ownership of 
the Churinga, It will be seen from a consideration of the 
way in which each individual acquires his own totem name, 
that it is not at all improbable that every now and again 
a particular local group of some totem may become extinct. 
If no child happens for some length of time to be conceived 
in some particular totem locality — and some of these are very 
limited in extent — then there may come a time when that 
particular group has no men or women representing it 

Every local group is regarded as owning collectively the 



locality in which lies its Ertnatulunga, The boundaries of 
this locality are well known, and if it happens that all the 
individuals associated with it die, then a neighbouring group 
will go in and possess the land. It is not, however, any 
neighbouring group which may do this, but it must be one 
the members of which are what is called Nakrakia to the 
extinct group — that is, they belong to tbe same moiety of the 
tribe as the latter. For example, supposing the extinct 
group consisted mainly of Purula and Kumara men, then 
the new occupiers must be of the same sub-classes, and 
not Bulthara and Fanunga. 

It is also clear that a group temporarily extinct may be 
resuscitated at any time, for the Churinga of the Alcheringa 
and their associated spirit individuals still inhabit the spot, 
so that no one knows when one of these may enter a woman, 
and the once extinct group spring into human existence 

When any group becomes thus extinct, the Churinga are 
cither taken care of by the new comers, or they may be 
handed over to some other local group of the same totem. 
Two instances which came under our notice will illustrate 
what actually takes place. In the first, all the members of a 
wild dog group, consisting mainly of Kumara and Purula men, 
died out ; a contiguous group of the same sub-classes, but of 
a different totem, took possession of the land, but carefully 
sent the Churinga from the Ertnatulunga to a distant group 
of wild dogs,^ In the second case, all the men of a lizard 
totem, situated some twelve miles to the north-east of Alice 
Springs, died out. They belonged to the Bulthara and 
Panunga moiety, and accordingly their locality was taken 
possession of by a neighbouring group of Bulthara and 
Panunga, who belonged to the Unchalka totem (a little grub), 
and in this instance these men also took care of the Churinga, 
leaving them undisturbed in the Ertnatulunga, the old men 
periodically examining them and rubbing them over with red 
ochre, so as to keep them in good state, just as if they were 

' In another case a group of wild dogs became extinct, and at the picscnt 
moment their Churinga. are being taken care of in the Eitnatulunga of the 
triichelty grub group of Alice Springs. 



their own. After some time a child was conceived in the old 
lizard locality, and thus the local totemic group was again 
brought to life, and the child — a boy — having reached mature 
age, was given charge of the Churinga which belonged to his 
totemic ancestors. The ceremony of handing over the 
Churinga which we witnessed took place during the Engwura 
and is described in connection with this. 

Whilst the Churinga are always under the immediate 
charge of the Alatunja, or head man of the local totem group, 
various individuals are regarded as having a special proprietary 
right in certain Churinga. Every one, in the first instance, 
has his own Chttringa nanja, but in addition to this he most 
probably has others which have come to him by right of 
inheritance, the line of descent which they follow being 
Strictly defined. Supposing a man dies, if he has a son of 
mature age, the latter — the eldest son, if there be more than 
one — is given charge of the dead man's Churinga. If he has 
no son of mature age, they are handed over to a younger 
brother, never to an elder one, and the former will take care 
of them until such time as the son is old enough to be 
entrusted with the duty of periodically rubbing and polishing 
them. It must be understood that they are always under the 
control of the Alatunja, without whose consent they cannot 
be touched even by the man who has, under his direction, 
special charge of them. If there be no son, then the younger 
brother retains charge of them, and in course of time they 
descend to his son or younger brother, and so on from 
generation to generation. 

In the case of a woman's Churinga they do not descend to 
her son, but to a younger brother, if she has one. It never 
descends to an elder brother, and if she have no younger 
brolher-in-blood, then the men who stand in the relationship 
oi Oknia (blood and tribal fathers) and Arunga (blood and 
tribal grandfathers) decide upon some man j'ounger than 
herself, standing to her in the relationship of Witia — that is 
blood or tribal )Ounger brother — and to him the charge of the 
Churinga is given. 

It will be seen that in the descent of the Churinga of men 
and women they always remain in the custody of a man 



belonging to the moiety of the tribe to which the individual 
belonged. If a woman's Churinga went to her son, then, as 
descent is counted in the paternal line, they would pass into 
the possession of a man belonging to the moiety to which she 
did not belong. 

The question of totem does not enter into consideration in 
regard to the descent of the Churinga, and the fact that this 
is so accounts for what was at first a matter of considerable 
perplexity to us. Whilst the Churinga during the Engwura 
were, as frequently happened, brought on to the ceremonial 
ground to be examined and rubbed over with red ochre, 
a man would show us perhaps as many as twenty belonging 
to various totems, and in which it was evident that he had a 
special proprietary right. He would spealc of them as 
belonging to him, though the great majority were Churinga of 
totems other than his own, and it was only after inquiry into 
a number of special cases that we came to understand how 
the Churinga of dead men and women were inherited by 
particular individuals. A man, for example, would tell us that 
such and such Churinga in the store lying in front of us had 
belonged to his Oknia, and that when the latter died then 
they came to him. Now a man calls his actual father Oknia, 
and also his father's brothers, and a man may inherit, as we 
have already seen, Churinga which belonged to his own 
father and to the elder brothers of the latter. As we found 
frequently, you cannot tell, without further inquiry, whether a 
particular Churinga belonged to a man's actual father or to an 
elder brother of his father. 

A man may thus inherit (i) the Churinga which belonged 
to his own father — that is, not only his father's Churinga 
nan/a, but any which have descended to him by right of 
inheritance ; (2) the Churinga which belonged to an elder 
brother who has died, leaving no son to inherit them ; and 
{3) the Ckuringa nanja of an elder (but not of a younger) 
sister. Not only does he inherit these Churinga, but at the 
same time, and along with them, he also inherits certain 
sacred ceremonies which belonged to the Alcheringa in- 
dividuals who are represented by the Churinga — a matter 
to which we shall have to c^ain refer when we are deal- 



ing with the Quabara or ceremonies concerned with the 

In addition to these which have already been dealt with, 
and all of which belong — so far as their shape is concerned — to 
the type of object popularly called a bull-roarer, there are 
other objects which are equally called Churinga, but both the 
external form as well as the significance of which renders 
them quite distinct from the former. The one point in which 
all the various articles agree, to which the name of Chu- 
ringa is applied, is this — they are all in some way associated 
with individual men, women, plants, or animals of the 
Alcheringa, and at the present day are strictly tabu to women. 
Thus, for example, at Undiara, the great centre of the Okira 
(kangaroo) totem, there lies buried beneath the ground a slab 
of stone, triangular in section and about three feet in length, 
which represents part of the tail of a celebrated kangaroo 
which was killed there in the Alcheringa, and has ever since 
remained in the form of this stone, which is Churinga, and 
only to be seen by initiated men during the performance of 
certain totemic ceremonies. Again, in the witchetty grub 
totem each man has associated with himself, in addition to 
the usual Churinga, a few small rounded stones called 
Churinga unchima. Each of these is usually about an inch 
in diameter, and represents one of the eggs with which the 
bodies of the Alcheringa individuals were filled. Large 
numbers of these were deposited at various camping 
places of the Alcheringa witchetty ancestors, the greater 
number being left at the central camp in the Emily Gorge 
near to the present site of Alice Springs. The spirit 
individual carries a certain number of these about with him 
as well as his usual Churinga, and deposits them around the 
base of his Nanja tree, where they may be found after the 
birth of the child to which he gives rise. Usually the older 
witchetty men carry a small number of these about with 
them, and when a man is dying a few of them are always 
placed under his head, being brought from the Ertnatulunga 
for this special purpose, if he does not happen to have any 
in his possession, and after death they are buried with him. 
Of the origin and meaning of this particular custom the 



natives have no idea, and this was the only occasion on 
which we could discover that anything of a sacred nature was 
buried with the men. This of course applies to men of the 
witchetty grub totem, but it is quite possible that in other 
totems there may be somewhat similar objects present, though 
we have not been able to learn of the existence of any 
amongst the representatives of a large number of totems with 
whom we have come into contact. 

Stones which are evidently Churinga are met with amongst 
other Central Australian tribes. In the Ilpirra and Luritcha 
we can say from personal knowledge that their use and 
meaning is precisely similar to that already described amongst 
the Arunta. In the case of the Kaitish and Warramunga 
tribes, which are located further to the north, the Churinga 
are distinct in shape from those of the Arunta. Each 
consists of a flat, micaceous slab, which in outline is character- 
istically pear-shaped, with always a small lump of resin 
afBxed to the narrow end. The stone may either be quite 
plain, or ornamented with designs similar to those of the 
Arunta Churinga, or, again, in the Kaitish tribe it may be 
decorated with a design painted on with charcoal and pipe- 
clay, the stone itself having been previously coloured red 
with ochre. Those in our possession are enclosed in a 
covering of emu feathers, both to preserve them from getting 
chipped and to prevent their being seen by the women 

(Fig. 21). 

Amongst the Waagai, both flat and somewhat spherical 
shaped stones are known, the latter 1 ooking much like one 
of the Churinga unchima of the witchetty men. The flattened 
stone (Fig. 22) has, unlike the Churinga of the Arunta or 
Ilpirra, its edge marked with very definite serrations ; the 
incised design consists of concentric circles, while at one 
end a hole is bored, to which a strand of hair string is 

There can be little doubt but that the same essential idea 
underlies the Churinga in all these tribes. We have traced 
through them all the same system of social organisation, 
with descent counted in the paternal line, together with 
corresponding terms of relationship, and, judging by the 



nature of their Churinga.^ it seems highly probable that the 
same, or at least essentially the same, totemic system exists 
amongst the Waagai, Kaitish and Warramunga as we know 
to exist gmong the Arunta, Luritcha and Ilpirra tribes. 

In the Urabunna tribe the equivalent of the sacred stick of 
the Arunta is called Chimbaliri, and has the form of a plain 
piece of wood with each end rounded, so that it has the 
general form of a wooden Churinga. It differs from the latter 
in being very distinctly concavo-convex in section, in having 
no incised pattern, and in not being red-ochred. The one 
figured (Fig. 20) measures 67 cm. in length and 9 cm. in 
width. After the initiation ceremony a Chimbaliri is given 
to the youth to carry about until the wound is healed. 

We have previously stated that one group will occasionally 
lend Churinga to a neighbouring and friendly group as a very 
special mark of good-will. It is somewhat difficult to find 
out the idea which is present in the native mind with respect 
to the lending and borrowing of Churinga beyond the fact 
that it is universally regarded as a most desirable thing to 
have possession of as large a number as possible, because 

> It must l>e remenibeted that the term Churinga which we use is the Arunla 
term for ti.ese s.Acr«,l ohjeHS, 



with them the spiritual part of their former possessors is 
associated. So far as we can find out, they are not borrowed 
or lent for any very definite purpose, but only because, on the 
one hand, a particular group is anxious to have in its 
possession for a time a lai^e number, with the general 
idea that it will in some vague and undefined way bring 
them good fortune, and, on the other hand, the second 
group is willing to lend them, and thus show a kind- 
ness which at the same time reflects a certain amount of 
dignity upon itself owing to the very- fact that it has a large 
number to lend. Beyond this there is the important item 
from the point of view of the lenders that the borrowing group 
is always supposed to make presents to the former on the 
occasion of returning the Churinga. 

It is not necessary for the two groups concerned to belong 
to the same totem — they may or they may not. 

The following is an account of what actually took place, 
when, two or three years ^o, an Erlia, or emu totem, group, 
living in the Strangway Range, lent some of its Churinga to 
another ErJia group which lives about twelve miles to the 
east of Alice Springs. These Churinga have only recently 
been returned, and the ceremonies enacted at both the 
borrowing and returning will ser\'e to show what takes place 
on these occasions, though in various parts of the tribe and in 
the case of different totems there are, of course, differences in 

The Alatunja or headman of the group which is anxious 
to borrow the Churinga sends a properly accredited messenger 
to the Alatunja of the group from which it is desired 
to borrow them. This messenger, who is called Inivurra, 
carries with him as his credentials a few Churinga, perhaps 
three or four, and they are usually stone ones. When he 
reaches the country of the strange group, he remains at some 
little distance from the main camp, the fact of his acting as a 
messenger being known at once from his behaviour. After 
some little time, during which he is left entirely to himself, as 
is usual on the approach of a stranger to a camp, the 
Alatunja and some of the older men go out to the spot at 
which he has remained seated since his approach. He then, 



in a whisper, asks the Alatutija to take care of the few 
Churinga which he has brought with him and to keep them 
safe for the group which he represents. Nothing whatever is 
said on either side as to the real object of his visit, but what 
this is is at once known from the fact of his asking the 
Alatunja to take care of his Churinga, If the Alatunja in 
whose hands, after consultation with the older men, the matter 
lies, does not feel disposed to lend Churinga, he politely 
declines to keep the Inwurra's offering, and the messenger at 
once returns to his own group, carrying his Churinga with him. 
In this particular case the Alatunja accepted the Churinga, 
thereby implying that he was willing to lend a larger number 
in return, though no words to that effect passed on either 
side, and the messenger at once went back and reported the 
success of his mission. As soon as he had returned, the 
Alatunja of the borrowing group organised a deputation, 
which, headed by himself, went across to the Strangway 
Range group of emu men. 

When the party came within a distance of about half a mile 
of the main camp, a halt was ordered by the Alatunja, and a 
messenger was sent on to announce the advent of the party. 
Presently the Alatunja of the local group and some of the 
older men, as usual, came out to the halting-place and sat 
down in- perfect silence. After a short time they embraced 
the visitors; and during the next two or three hours the 
embracing was repeated at intervals, conversation with regard 
to the Churinga being carried on in whispers. As a general 
rule there are upon these deputations one or two of the more 
recently initiated men who are being gradually inducted into 
such ceremonies, but are not, as yet, allowed to see everything 
which takes place. For example, though they come with the 
others, they will not be shown the stone Churinga, at least not 
close to, as this is the first important mission with which they 
have been associated. 

As usual on such occasions, the deputation had arrived 
about mid-day. Until sunset the men remained at the 
meeting-place, and then, when it had grown dark, they were 
conducted by their hosts to the ordinary corrobboree ground, 
where a performance was given in their honour. On such oc- 



is esteemed a polite attention to guests to per- 
form a part of an Altherta or ordinary corrobboree, belong- 
ing to the district from which the visitors come, and in 
which one or two of the latter are usually asked to take 

When the dancing was over the visitors were conducted to 
the camp of the single men, where the night was spent. The 
performance lasted several days, while the visitors remained 
as guests in the camp. At its termination, and when all the 
women had been sent away from the corrobboree ground, 
the local Alatunja, accompanied by some of the older men,' 
went to the Ertnatulunga, or sacred store-house, and, choosing 
out the Churinga to be lent, returned with them to the ground 
where the visitors had remained. During the night the 
Churinga were carefully inspected, greased, rubbed with red 
ochre, and stacked in an elaborately decorated shield. At 
daylight they were solemnly handed over to the visiting 
Alatunja, the lender saying in low tones, " Keep the Churinga 
safely, they are of the Alcheringa ; we lend them to you freely, 
gladly ; do not be in a hurry to return them." While he was 
saying this, the older men murmured approvingly ; the young 
men present who had only recently been initiated had been 
sent some little distance away. Then the leader of the 
deputation replied, speaking in low tones, and supported by 
the fervent " A uatta, auatta " (" Yes, yes ") of his colleagues on 
the deputation. He said, " We will watch over them with 
care, and return them to you after some time ; the emu Chur- 
inga are good, the emu men are strong and good." After a 
further conversation in whispers, during which the virtues of 
the Churinga were dilated upon, the deputation departed, 
waving spears and shouting loudly, " l/ivai I Uwai ! Uwai .' " 
— an exclamation used to denote fear or danger, or to frighten 
women and children, who, when they hear it, will quickly 
make o6F out of the way. 

The return journey was made by the least frequented path, 
so as to avoid as far as possible any chance of meeting 
women. On arrival in camp, the Churinga were carefully 
examined by the old men, and then hidden away amongst 
their own in the Erttialulwiga. There then followed a cor- 



robboree, in which those who took part introduced a Strang- 
way Range performance. 

After rather more than two years had elapsed, the Churinga 
were returned. It is usual for this to take place within the 
area occupied by the lending group, but on this particular 
occasion it was arranged that the ceremony should take 
place at a spot on the Todd River, just within the district of 
the borrowing group. 

To this spot accordingly came 'the Alatunja of the Strang- 
way Range group, attended by his men. While camped 
here and awaiting the coming of the party returning the 
Churinga, various ceremonies concerned with the emu totem 
were performed at night-time, in the centre of a lai^e space 
which had been specially cleared for the purpose. 

On the day on which the deputation was to come in, the 
men assembled here, all painted with charcoal and birds' 
down in front, and with designs on their backs copied from 
the ClmrzHga Ilkinia, or designs peculiar to the totem. 
About half an hour before the main deputation reached the 
spot, a single messenger arrived and, approaching the 
Alatunja with an air of great deference, told him that the 
Imvurra bearing the sacred Churinga were close at hand. 
Two shields were placed on the ground in front of the 
Alatunja, who sat down in the native fashion, with his legs 
bent up under him, so that his knees projected towards the 
shields. All the other men with him, between forty and 
fifty in number, sat down, forming a solid square, the front 
row of which was occupied by the elder men, with the Alatunja 
in the middle. A little to the right of him was a shield, on 
which had been placed a flat cake called ekulla made from 
crushed grass seeds, and on the top of this were placed a 
number of freshly-made Imitnyay or fur string head bands. 
A few yards distant, on either side of the square, a man was 
stationed, sitting on the ground, and each of these men alter- 
nately struck the ground heavily with a hard flat piece of 
wood, while those within the square, led by the Alatunja, 
sang with great gusto, the sidesmen continuing to beat time 
upon the ground, until, at length, the Jnzvurra emerged into 
the pathway which had previously been prepared for them 



M 2 



to traverse by clearing away the stones, bushes, and tussocks 
of grass. 

As soon as they came in sight of the waiting men they at 
once halted, shouting loudly," Uwai, i/o-di.'" and brandishing 
their weapons, the man wl^ carried the bundle of Churinga 
being well in front of the column. The men of the waiting 
group at once stopped singing, and shouted excitedly, " Erlia ! 
Erlia !" — the native name of their totem, the emu. After a 
short halt, the Inwurra party came on at a trot, with the 
curious high knee action always adopted by the natives when 
engaged in performing ceremonies. Spears and boomerangs 
were waved about, amid shouts of "Uwai! Uwai.'" and 
answering cries of " Erlia, Erlia ! " The leading old man, who 
carried the Churinga, imitated, as he came along, the action 
and characteristic zig-zag course of a running emu, the bundle 
of Churinga, which was held at an angle above his head, 
giving him, indeed, somewhat the appearance of the animal. 

At this time, those who were seated in the square began to 
sing, except only the old Alatunja, whose head was bent low 
down, as if he were too much overcome with emotion to take 
any part in the singing. 

When the strangers had reached the waiting group, the 
Churinga were placed on one of the shields, the singing 
ceased, and the new-comers sat down so that they formed 
a second square immediately facing the other one. The old 
men occupied the front row, with the Alatunja in the centre 
of it. 

After a short pause, the leader of the Inwurra bent over 
and whispered in the ear of the Alatunja, every one mean- 
while assuming a strikingly grave demeanour, as if something 
of the greatest importance were taking place. Then all, 
except the two leaders, joined in a short chant and when it 
was over, the leader of the Inwurra and other old men of his 
party took up the bundle of Churinga and deposited it on 
the lap of the Alatunja, who took it up, rubbed it several 
times against his stomach and thighs, and then against 
of the older men who were sitting beside him. The object 
of this rubbing is, so the natives say, to untie their bowels, 
which become tightened and tied up in knots as a result of 



the emotion felt when they once more see their Churinffa. 
The latter were then placed on the lap of the leader of the 
Inwuna, and then the Alatunja sitting immediately opposite 
to him, as well as the old men on each side of him, leaned 
across and rubbed their foreheads against the stomachs of 
the front row of the Inwurra party. This was done to show 
that they were friends, and were not angry with the visitors 
because they had kept the Churinga for such a long time. 

The leader of the Inwurra party now began to unwind the 
Imitnya, which were quite newly made of opossum fur, and 
in which the Churinga were swathed, forming altogether a 
torpedo-shaped bundle about four feet in length. Every now 
and then they paused and repeated the rubbing of the stom- 
achs with their foreheads, until, finally, when the Imitnya 
and a number of Uliara, or human hair girdles, lying under 
them, had all been removed, the Churinga were displayed. 
Then, one by one, they were handed over to the Alatunja, 
who carefully examined each one, and rubbed it over his 
stomach and thighs, and over those of the men of his 
group, and then placed it on one of the shields in front 
of him. 

This [jerformance occupied a coosiderable time, and it was 
conducted with great solemnity. Then the leader of the 
Inwurra addressed the Alatunja and his men, saying in effect, 
" We return your great Churinga, which have made us glad. 
We bring you a present of these Imitnya and Uliara, and we 
are sorry that we could not bring more, but the Anthinna 
opossum) is scarce and hair does not grow quickly." This 
was somewhat modest, as there must have been, at the least, 
fifty large new Imitnya or opossum fur-string bands, besides 
a great number of Uliara. 

The Alatunja replied, " It is good, yes, we are glad you 
kept our Churinga so well ; they are all here. We accept 
your present and offer you these Imitnya in return ; we are 
-sorry we cannot give you more." Then he handed the 
Imitnya, about fifteen in number, which were placed on one 
of the shields, to the leader of the Inwurra, and taking up the 
ekulla or cake of grass seed, he divided it into two with a 
Churinga, and, giving one half each to the leader and another 



old man of the latter's party, said, " Eat, feed your men with 
our ekulla" 

After the old men of the local party had spent a long time 
in carefully examining the Churinga, the ceremony came to 
an end, and the Alatunja told the old men, in whispers, that 
he was about to perform the ceremony of Intichiuma of the 
emu totem. This is not, however, of necessity performed 
when the Churinga are returned, and is described in the 
chapter dealing with the Intkkiuma ceremonies of various 




Object of the cerenionies— Noabsolulerestri' 
Kaling of totem obligatoiy on certain 
eating of the wild cat — The disease Ertimha — Individuals who may attend 
iheceieniDnies—TimeofhoIdinBoriheceremonies— /fl'/f^iunuiof theUdnir- 
ringila or Wilchetly giubs — Ceremony of eating and distributing the LTdnir- 
ringita after the Intichiuma — lutickiuma of the Eriia or Emu — Inlkhiuma ot 
the Unjiamba oi Hakea — InliihiuiHa of the llpirla Oi Hl^ara— Intiihiama of 
the Yanimpa or Unnxy-ajA—jHtichiuma of the Qualcha or Water— Undiam^ 
Description of the spot — Cave containing the Nanja stone of a Kangaroo animal 
— Diflerent portion held by women at the present day in comparison with that 
held in the past— Traditions concerned with Uiidiara— History of Unguinika 
and his boils — Ungutnika pursued by the wild dogs — Reconstitutes himself, but 
is finally killed and his tail buried near to Undiara— The Kangaroo and the 
Okin, men — An Arunga or Euro man changes himself into a Kangaroo maD 
and pursues the Kangaroo — Arrival at Undiara and killing of the Kangaroo ; 
the ceremonial stone arising to mark the place where its body was deposited 
in the— Intichiuma of the Okira totem— Relationship between the in- 
dividual and his totem — An Arunga man making a Chunnga of his totem to 
assist a Plum Tree man in catching Arunga— Ceremonies concerned with 
eatii^ the totem after Intichiuma — Traditions referring to the eating of the 
toteoiic animal or plant. 

The name Intichiuma is applied to certain sacred ceremonies 
associated with the totems, and the object of which is to 
secure the increase of the animal or plant which gives its 
name to the totem. These ceremonies are perhaps the most 
important of any, and it does not seem possible to discover 
when and how they arose. The natives have no tradition 
which deals with their origin. 

In connection with them we may note an interesting 
feature with regard to the relationship existing between an 
individual of the Arunta and other tribes in the centre of 
the continent, and his totemic animal or plant. We find 
amongst these tribes no restriction according to which a man 



is forbidden to eat his totem, as is stated to be the case 
amongst certain other Australian tribes. On the other hand, 
though he may only under ordinary circumstances eat very 
sparingly of it, there are certain special occasions on which he 
is. we may say, obliged by custom to eat a small portion of it 
or otherwise the supply would fail. These occasions are 
those on which the Intkhiuina ceremonies now to be described 
are performed. Further still, the lead in the ceremony must be 
taken by the Alatunja, and when we asked the Alatunja of the 
witchctty grub totem why he ate his totem, which is always 
regarded by the native as just the same as himself, the reply 
was that unless he did eat a little, he would not be able to 
perform properly the ceremony of Intichiuma. 

There is however one notable exception to the restrictions 
upon eating, and this is concerned with the Achilpa or wild 
cat ' totem. Only a very little of this is allowed to be eaten, 
and that only by the old people ; but in this case the restriction 
is not confined to the members of the totem, but is of universal 
application, applying to every member of the tribe. There is 
no similar restriction applying to any other animal or plant, 
but, in the case of Achilpa, there are reasons given for not 
eating it which serve to show that for some cause or other 
this particular animal has associations with the tribe as a 
whole which do not exist in respect of any other. In the 
first place, it is supposed that any one, save an old man or 
woman, eating Achilpa would be afflicted with a special disease 
called Erkincha ; and in the second, it is believed that if any 
man who had killed another at any time of his life were to 
eat this particular animal, then his spirit part or Yenka * would 
leave his body and he would soon be killed by some enemy, 
so that to a man who has ever killed another— and there are 
very few men who do not lay claim to this distinction — the 
Achilpa is tabu or forbidden for life, no matter what be his 
age. There are amongst the traditions dealing with the 
Achilpa of the Alcheringa, very explicit references to the 
Erkincha disease, though why this should be especially 

' This is Dasynrns geoffrvyi. 

' A man's spirit wlien he v^ alive is called Ycnlia : when riwtl his .spirit part is 
calleil Vnliana. 



associated with the Achilpa people it is difficult to say, and 
the natives have no explanation to offer,^ 

We may now describe the ceremonies of Intichiuma as 
they are performed in the case of certain of the totems. Each \ 
totem has its own ceremony and no two of them are alike ; but 
though they differ to a very great extent so far as the actual 
performance is conceriied, the important point is that one and 
all ha\e for their sole object the purpose of increasing the 
number of the animal or plant after which the totem is called ; 
and thus, taking the tribe as a whole, the object of these 
ceremonies is that of increasing the total food- supply. To 
this question we shall have to return, as in connection with it 
there are certain points of very considerable interest. . 

E\ery local totemic group has its oi\n Intichiuma ceremony, 
and each one is held at a time decided upon by the Alatunja 
under whose direction it is carried out. Any man who is a 
member of the totem can attend irrespective of the class to 
which he belongs, though, as we have already pointed out, the 
great majority of the members of any local group belong to 
one moiety of the tribe. In some cases men who are in the 
camp at the time when the ceremony is to be performed, and 
who belong to the right moiety of the tribe, are invited by 
the Alatunja to be present ; but this is rather an exceptional 
thing, and under no circumstances are men who belong neither 
to the totem nor to the right moiety allowed to be present 

In connection with the times at which the ceremonies are 
held, it may be said that while the exact time is fixed by the 
Alatunja in each case, yet the matter is -largely dependent 
on the nature of the season. ■ The Intichiuma are closely 

' If we were to haianl a su^eslion in Ihe atlenipl to ex))lain the (wigin of (he 
lestricliun, il would lie along the following lines. The Achilpa, as shown in the 
traditions of ihe ttilie, may veiy probably lie looked upon as a pDwerful group of 
indiinduals who at some past lime marched over the country. Possibly Ihey 
liniught with ihem the disease, at least il ii. suggestive in this respect thai tradition 
refers the disease to them an<l to the members of no other totem and, as com- 
munication with the individuals of the lotem resulted in Ihe spread of the disease, 
sn the idea of danger associated with any ciinnection uith il not unnaturally ex- 
tended frDm the hum:in Achilpa lo the animal itself, and thus the latter became 
tabu. It may also be noticed thai Eriimha is prevalent amongst your^ and nut 
amongst old people, and thai this is parallel wilh ihe labu not applying strictly to 



associated with the breeding of the animals and the flowering 
of the plants with which each totem is respectively identified, 
and as the object of the ceremony is to increase the number of 
the totemic animal or plant, it is most naturally held at a 
certain season. In Central Australia the seasons are limited, 
so far as the breeding of animals and the flowering of plants is 
concerned, to two — a dry one of uncertain and often great 
length, and a rainy one of short duration and often of irregular 
occurrence. The latter is followed by an Increase in animal 
life and an exuberance of plant growth which, almost suddenly, 
transforms what may have been a sterile waste into a land 
rich in various forms of animals, none of which have been seen 
for it may be many months before, and gay with the blossoms 
of endless flowering plants. 

In the case of many of the totems it is just when there is 
promise of the approach of a good season that it is customary 
to hold the ceremony. While this is so, it sometimes happens 
that the members of a totem, such as, for example, the rain or 
water totem, will hold their Intichiuma when there has been a 
long drought and water is badly wanted ; if rain follows within 
a reasonable time, then of course it is due to the influence of 
the Intichiuma ; if it does not, then the non-success is at once 
attributed to the evil and counter influence of some, usually, 
distant group of men. With the meaning of the ceremonies 
we shall deal later on ; meanwhile it may be said here that 
their performance is not associated in the native mind with 
the idea of appealing to the assistance of any supernatural 

Intichiuma of the Udnirringita ok Witchetty 
GRUB Totem 

When the ceremony is to be peformed at Alice Springs the 
men assemble in the main camp, and then those who are about 
to take part in the proceedings leave the camp quietly, slink- 
ing away to a meeting place not far ofl*, the women and men 
who do not belong to the totem not being supposed to know 
that they are gone, A few, perhaps two or three, of the older 
men of the totem stay in camp, and next morning they ask 



the men who do not belong to the totem to return early from 
their hunting. Every man has left all his weapons in the 
camp, for all must go quite unarmed and without any 
decoration of any kind ; even the hair girdle, the one constant 
article of clothing worn by the men, must be left in camp. 
They all walk in single file except the Alatunja, who sometimes 
takes the lead and at others walks by the side of the column to 
see that the line is kept. On no account must any of the 

men, except the very old ones, eat any kind of food until the 
whole ceremony is over ; anything which may be caught in the 
way of game has to be handed over to the old men. The 
procession usually starts late in the afternoon, so that it is 
dusk by the time that a special camping ground near to 
the Emily Gap is reached, and here they lie down for the 

At daylight the party begins to pluck twigs from the gum 
trees at the mouth of the Gap, and every man carries a twig in 



each hand except the Alatunja, who carries nothing save a 
small pitchi or wooden trough, which is called Apmara} 
Walking again in single file they follow — led by the Alatunja 
— the path traversed by the celebrated Intwailiuka, the great 
leader of the Witchetty grubs in the Alcheringa, until they 
come to what is called the lUlmra oknira, which is placed 
high up on the western wall of the Gap. In this, which is a 
shallow cave, a large block of quartzite lies, and around it are 
some small rounded stones. The large mass represents the 
Maegwa, that is, the adult animal. The Alatunja begins 
"singing and taps the stone with his Apmara, while all the 
other men tap it with their twigs, chanting songs as they do 
so, the burden of which is an invitation to the animal to 
lay eggs. When this has gone on for a short time they tap 
the smaller stones, which are Churinga unchima, that is, the)' 
represent the eggs of the Maegwa. The Alatunja then takes up 
one of the smaller stones and strikes each man in the stomach 
with it, saying, " Unga muma oknirra ulguinita " (" You have 
eaten much food "). When this has been done the stone is 
dropped and the Alatunja strikes the stomach of each man with 
his forehead, an operation which is called atnitta ulpilima. 
Lea\ing the Ilthura the men descend from the range to the 
bed of the creek in the Gap, and stop under the rock called 
Alknalinta, that is, the decorated eyes, where, in the 
Alcheringa, Intwailiuka used to cook, pulverise and eat the 
grub. The Alatunja strikes the rock with his Apmara, and 
each man does the same with his twigs, while the older men 
a^ain chant invitations to the animal to come from all 
directions and lay eggs. At the base of the rock, buried 
deeply in the sand, there is supposed to be a very lai^e 
Maegwa stone. 

It was at this spot that Intwailiuka used to stand while he 
threw up the face of the rock numbers of Churinga unchima, 
which rolled down again to his feet ; accordingly the Alatunja 
does the same with some of the Churinga which have been 

' This is not esiiecially niade for Ihe purpose, Imt is an ordinaiy Jsmall pilchi, 
such as the women use for scooping the earth out of burrows, and is aluiays pro- 
vided 1>)- a daughlet of the Alatunja. 



brought from the store-house close by. While he is doing 
this the other members of the party run up and down the 
face of the rocky ledge, singing all the time. The stones roll 
down into the bed of the creek and are carefully gathered 
t(^ether and replaced in the store. 

The men now fall once more into single file and march in 
silence to the nearest Htlitira, which is about a mile and a half 
away from the Gap in the direction of Alice Springs. The 

Alatunja goes into the hole, which is four or five feet deep, 
and scoops out with his Apmara any dirt which may have 
accumulated in it, singing as he does so a low monotonous 
chant about the UcJiaqua. Soon he lays bare two stones 
which have been carefully covered up in the base of the hole : 
the lai^er one is called Chttringa uchaqua, and represents 
the chrysalis stage from which emerges the adult animal ; the 
smaller is one of the Churinga itnchima or egg. When they 
are exposed to view, songs referring to the Udiaqna are sung, 



and the stones are solemnly handled and cleaned with the 
palm of the hand. One by one the men now go into the 
Ilthura, and the Alatunja, lifting up the Churinga ucbaqua, 
strikes the stomach of each man with it, saying again, " You 
have eaten much food." Finally, dropping the .stone, he butts 
{this is the only word expressive of the action) at each man 
in the abdomen with his forehead. 

There are altogether some ten of these Ilthura, in each 
one of which is a Churinga uchaqna, and each Ilthura is 

visited in turn by the party and the .same ceremony is 

When the round of the Illhiirn has been made and the same 
ceremony enacted at each one, then a start is made for the 
home camp. When within a mile or so of the latter they stop 
and decorate themselves with material which has been purposely 
brought to the spot. Hair string is tied round their heads, 



and Chilara or forehead bands are put on, beneath which 
twigs of the Udnirringa^ bush are fixed so that they hang 
downwards. Nose bones are thrust through the nasai sep- 
tum, and rat tails and topknots of cockatoo feathers are 
ft'om in the hair. The Alatunja is but little decorated ; he has 
only the Ckilara across his forehead, and the Lalkira or 
nose bone. Under his arm he carries the Apmara, and in his 
hand a twig of the Udnirringa bush. While the men walk 
along they keep their twigs in constant motion, much as if 


they were brushing off flies. The totem Ilkinia or sacred 
design is painted on the body of each man with red ochre 
and pipe clay, and the latter is also used to paint the face, 
except for the median line of red. When the decorations are 
complete a start is <^ain made, all walking in single file, the 
Alatunja at the head with his Apmara under his arm. Every 
' The totemic animal takes ils name from this shmb, on which ihe grub feeds. 



now and then they stop and the old Alatunja, placing his 
hand above his eyes, as if to shade the latter, strikes an 
attitude as he peers away into the distance. He is supposed 
to be looking out for the women who were left in camp. The 
old man, who had been left in charge at the camp during 
the absence of the party, is also on the look-out for the return 
of the latter. While the men have been away he has built, 
away from the main camp, a long, narrow wurley, which is 
called Umbana, and is intended to represent the chrysalis 
case from which the Maegiva or fully -developed insect 
emerges. Near to this spot all those who have not been 
taking part in the ceremony assemble, standing behind the 
Umbana. Those men who belong to the other moiety of the 
tribe — that is, to the Purula and the Kumara — are about forty 
or fifty yards away, sitting down in perfect silence ; and the 
same distance further back the Panunga and Bulthara women 
are standing, with the Purula and Kumara women sitting down 
amongst them. The first-named women are painted with the 
totem Ilkinia of red and white lines ; the second are painted 
with lines of white faintly tinged with red. When the old 
man at length sees the party approaching he steps out and 
sings — 

" likna pung kwai, Vaalan ni luii, \'u miilk la, Nnan tai yaa lai." 

The Alatunja, as the party comes slowly along, stops every 
now and then to peer at the women. Finally all reach the 
Umbana and enter it. When all are inside they begin to sing 
of the animal in its various stages, and of the Alknalinta 
stone and the great Maeg^va at it base. As soon as the 
performers enter the wurley, the Purula and Kumara men 
and women He face downwards, and in this position they 
must remain until they receive permission to arise. They 
are not allowed to stir under any pretext whatever. The 
.singing continues for some time ; then the Alatunja in a 
squatting position shuffles out of the Umbana, gliding slowly 
along over the space in front, which has been cleared for a 
distance of .some yards. He is followed by all the men, who 
sing of the emerging of the Maegwa from its case, the 
Umbaufi. Slowly they shuffle out and back again until all 



are once more in the wurley, when the singing ceases and 
food and water are brought to them by the old man who had 
remained in camp and built the Umbana. This, it must be 
remembered, is the first food or drink which they have par- 
taken of since they originally left the camp, as, except in the 


case of the very old men, it is peremptory that the ceremony be 
carried out without any eating or drinking on the part of the 
participants. When it is dusk they leave the wurley, and go 
round to the side away from that on which the Purula and 
Kumara men are lying, so that, to a certain extent, they are 




hidden from their view. A large fire is lighted, and round this 
they sit, singing of the witchetty grub. This is kept up till 
some little time before daybreak, and during all that time the 
women of the right moiety must stand peering about into the 
darkness to see if the women of the other moiety, over whom they 
are supposed to keep watch, continue to lie down. They also 
peer about, watching the Intichiuma party just as the women 
did in the Alcheringa. Suddenly the singing ceases, and the 
fire is quickly put out by the Alatunja. This is the signal for 
the release of the Purula and Kumara men and women, who 
jump to their feet, and these men and all the women of what- 
ever class they may be, at once run away to the main camp. 
The Iniichiuma party remains at the wurley until daylight, 
when the men go near to the Ungunja^ make a fire and strip 
themselves of all their ornaments, throwing away their 
Udnirringa twigs. When all the Uliara, Imitnya, Lalkira 
and cockatoo feathers are removed, the Alatunja says, " Our 
Intichiuma is finished, the Mulyanuka must have these things 
or else our Intichiuma would not be successful, and some 
harm would come to us." They all say, " Yes, yes, certainly ; " 
and the Alatunja calls to the Mulyanuka (i.e. men of the 
other moiety of the tribe), who are at the Ungunja, that 
is the men's camp, to come up, and the things are divided 
amongst them, after which the old man, who before brought 
them food, goes to the various camps and collects a con- 
siderable quantity of vegetable food which is given to him 
by the women. This is brought back and cooked and 
eaten by the fire, where they still remain. During the after- 
noon the old man again visits the camp, and brings back with 
him some red ochre and the fur string which belongs to the 
various members of the party, and, just before sundown, the 
old men rub red ochre over their bodies, and over those of the 
younger men, thus obliterating the Ilkinia and the painting 
on the face. The men then put on their arm strings, &c., and 
return to their respective camps, and with this the main part 
of the ceremony is brought to a close. When all is over, the 

' Tlfe Ungtinja is a special part of the main camp where the men assemble, and 
near to which no woman may go. In the same way tlie women Have their special 
part, called Erlulmiirray near to which no tnan may go. 



Apmara or pitcki of the Alatutija is held in great regard, and 
the Panunga and Bukhara women enjoy the privilege, each 
in turn, of carrying it about. 


The Intichiutna of the Erlia or emu group of Strangway 
Range, differs very considerably from the ceremony which 
has just been described, and it must be remembered that 
there are considerable differences in detail between the 
Intkkiuma ceremonies of even the different local groups of 
the same totem. 

We have already described the returning of the emu 
Churinga to the Strangway Range men by the members of 
another group to which they had been lent, and the following 
ceremony was performed upon this occasion. . As is always the 
case, the decision to hold the Intakmma was arrived at by 
the Alatunja. He and a few other men, amongst whom were 
his two sons," first of all cleared a small level plot of ground, 
sweeping aside all stones, tussocks of grass, and small bushes, 
so as to make it as smooth as possible. Then several of the 
men, the Alatunja and his two sons amongst them, each 
opened a vein in their arms, and allowed the blood to stream 
out until the surface of a patch of ground, occupying a space 
of about three square yards, was saturated with it. The 
blood was allowed to dry, and in this way a hard and fairly 
impermeable surface was prepared, on which it was possible 
to paint a design. This is the only occasion on which we 
have known of any such method being adopted. With white 
pipe clay, red and yellow ochre, and powdered charcoal mixed 
with grease, the sacred design of the emu totem was then 
outlined on the ground. In this particular case, when the 
design was for the special occasion drawn on the ground, it 
was called an Ilpintira, which is simply one of the Ilkinia 
or totemic designs drawn under these conditions. The 
drawing was done by the Alatunja, his blood brothers, and 
txvo sons. It is supposed to represent certain parts of the 
emu ; two large patches of yellow indicated lumps of fat, of 
which the natives are very fond, but the greater part 

N 2 



represented, by means of circles and circular patches, the eggs 
in various stages of development, some before and some after 
laying. Small circular yellow patches represented the small 
eggs in the ovarj' ; a black patch surrounded by a black circle 
was a fully-formed egg ready to be laid ; while two larger 
concentric circles meant an egg which has been laid and 
incubated, so that a chicken has been formed. In addition to 
these marks, various sinuous lines, drawn in black, red, and 
yellow, indicate parts of the intestines, the excrement being 
represented by black dots. Everywhere over the surface, in 
and amongst the various drawings, white spots indicated the 
feathers of the bird, the whole device being enclosed by a thin 
line of pale pink down. It will be noticed that this desig[n 
differs in important respects from others associated with the 
sacred objects of the totem. The latter, such as the designs 
on the Churinga, have no definite relationship, and no attempt 
at any resemblance to the objects which they are supposed 
to indicate, but in this drawing, though it is to a certain 
extent conventionalised, still we can see very clearly that an 
attempt is made to actually represent the objects. The large 
yellow patches representing fat, the small yellow circles the 
eggs in the ovary, and the patches with enclosing circles, eggs 
with shells, serve to show that the original designer had a 
definite idea of making the drawing, conventional though it 
be to a large extent, indicative of the objects which it is 
supposed to represent 

During the day, and in fact throughout the whole ceremony, 
the Alatunja was treated with the greatest deference ; no one ■ 
spoke to him except in a whisper, and he it was who 
regulated the whole proceedings, even down to the minutest 

The drawing, or Churinga ilpintira, was completed before 
the arrival of the messengers bearing the borrowed Churinga, 
and, when done, it was carefully concealed from view with 
branches. After the Churinga had been returned with the 
formalities already detailed, the Alatunja informed the visitors 
of his intention to perform fntichinma, and, rising from the 
ground, he led the way, carrying the Churinga, to the spot 
close by where the Ilpintira was concealed. He removed the 



boughs, and, placing the Churinga on one side, squatted down, 
all the rest of the men following his example. In the intervals 
of a monotonous chant, which lasted for half an hour, he 
explained the different parts of the drawing, which was then 
again covered up and the men returned to the original meet- 
ing place, where, for the rest of the night, they chanted, sitting 
round the Churinga. 

During the night three large wooden Churinga, each about 
four feet in length, were decorated with series of concentric 



circles of red and yellow ochre and of white pipe clay, and 
tipped with bunches of emu feathers and the red-barred tail 
feathers of the black cockatoo. The Alatunja selected three 
of the older men to act the part of Inniakwa, who are 
supposed to represent ancestors of the emu totem of con- 
siderable antiquity, but not so far back as the Atcheringa. 
At the same time a number of the younger men were chosen 
to act the part of Itltura, who are the descendants of the 



Inniaktva, and they were painted on their chests with designs 
belonging to the totem, in charcoal and white down. 

At daylight the decorated Churinga were fixed on the 
heads of the Inniakwa, and, while three or four of the Illiura 
were despatched to the women's camp, the rest of the men 
assembled at, and sang round, the drawing. Just at sunrise 
the party left the camping ground and went to an open 
space, which had been previously selected for the purpose, on 


the opposite side of a ridge of low scrub-covered hills. The 
Illiura had meanwhile driven the women and children out 
from their camp, and shortly after the arrival of the main 
party of men the former came running towards the cere- 
monial ground and took up a position at one end. The 
Inniakwa stood in the centre some distance away from, but 
still clearly seen by, the women and children, and without 
moving their feet imitated the aimless gazing about of the 
emu, each man holding a bunch of twigs in his hands, the 



Churinga on the head with its tuft of feathers being intended 
to represent the long neck and small head of the bird. The 
women watched intently, for this is one of the very few 
occasions on which they are allowed to see, even at a 
distance, a sacred ceremony. Then, with a curious gliding 
movement, the performers moved in the direction of the 
women, who thereupon uttered cries of alarm. Once more 
the three men stood quietly, moving only their heads, and 
then again ran for a few yards. Upon this the women turned 
and fled towards their camp, while the audience of men 
moved their arms as if with the one to urge the women to run 
away and with the other to call back the Inniakwa to the 
centre of the ground. 

When the women and children were out of sight the 
Inniakwa, accompanied by the other men, ran over the low 
hill back to the camping ground, where the Churinga were 
taken from the heads of the Inniakwa and placed upright in 
the ground. About midday the Churinga, which had been 
brought back by the visiting group and had been placed on a 
small platform, were taken down and brought to the centre 
of the ceremonial ground, where they were again examined 
and rubbed with red ochre by the Alatunja and the older 
men to the accompaniment of continuous chanting on the 
part of the other men who sat around. When this was over 
all gathered t<^ether at the flpintira, the meaning of which 
was again explained by the Alatunja, ^jflgjjje continued at \ 
intervals during the day, and Just before dusk three newly 
appointed Inniakwa were decorated, the IlHura again drove 
the women and children from their camp to the ceremonial 
ground, and the performance of the early morning was 

On the second day precisely the same programme was 
gone through, after which the men returned to their camping 
place, the three Churinga were divested of their decorations, 
the Ilpintita was very carefully obliterated by the Alatunja 
and his sons, and the ceremony came to an end. The strange 
natives then went back to their country, and the returned 
Churinga were taken by the Alatunja and the old men of his 
group and placed in the sacred store-house. 




At a place called Ilyaba the ceremony is performed by 
men of the Bulthara and Panunga classes, and the exact spot 
at which it takes place is a shallow, oval-shaped pit, by the 
side of which grows an ancient Hakea tree. In the centre 
of the depression is a small projecting and much worn block 
of stone, which is supposed to represent a mass of Unjiamba 


or Hakea flowers, the tree being the Nanja tree of an 
Alcheringa woman whose reincarnation is now alive. 

Before the ceremony commences the pit is carefully swept 
clean by an old Unjiamba man, who then strokes the stone 
all over with his hands. When this has been done the men 
sit around the stone and a considerable time is spent in 
singing chants, the burden of which is a reiterated invitation 
to the Unjiamba tree to flower much, and to the blossoms to 



be full of honey. Then the old leader asks one of the young 
men to open a vein in his arm, which he does, and allows the 
blood to sprinkle freely over the stone, while the other men 
continue the singing. The blood flows until the stone is 
completely covered, the flowing of blood being supposed 
to represent the preparation of ABmoara, that is, the drink 
which is made by steeping the flower in water, this being 
a very favourite beverage of the natives. As soon as the 
stone is covered with blood the ceremony is complete. 

The stone is regarded as a Churinga, and the spot is 
ekirinja, or forbidden to the women, children and uninitiated 


Ilpirla is a form of " manna," very similar to the well- 
known sugar-manna of gum trees but peculiar to the mulga 
tree {Acacia aneurot). 

About five or six miles to the west of Ilyaba there is a 
great boulder of grey-coloured gneissic rock, curiously marked 
with black and white seams, at which the men of the Ilpirla 
totem perform the ceremony of Intickiuma. On the top of 
the boulder, which stands about five feet above the ground, 
there is a similar stone weighing about twenty pounds, 
tc^ether with smaller ones, all of which represent masses of 
Ilpirla. The large boulder, on which the others lie, has the 
same significance, and is supposed to have been deposited 
there in the Alcheringa by a man of the Ilpirla totem, who 
has at the present time no living representative. 

When Intichiuma is performed, a clear space is first of all 
swept round the base of the stone, and after this the Alatunja 
d^ down into the earth at the base of the boulder, and 
discloses to view a Churinga which has been buried there 
ever since the Alcheringa, and is supposed to represent a 
mass of Ilpirla. Then he climbs on to the top of the boulder 
and rubs it with the Churinga, after which he takes the 
smaller stones and with these rubs the same spot, while the 
other men sitting around sing loudly, " Inka parunta. 
nartnapurtnai, urangatclta chuntie, urungatcha chutitie." 



The meaning of these words is an invitation to the dust 
produced by the rubbing of the stones to go out and produce 
a plentiful supply of Ilpirla on the mulga trees. Then with 
twigs of the mulga he sweeps away the dust which has 
gathered on the surface of the stone, the idea being to cause 
it to settle upon the mulga trees and so produce Ilpirla, 
When the Alatunja has done this, several of the old men in 
turn mount the boulder and the same ceremony is repeated. 
Finally, the Churinga is buried at the base in its old position, 
and with this the ceremony closes. 


In this ceremony, as performed at Ilyaba, the majority 
of men are Panunga and Bukhara, only a few Kumara and 
Purula belonging to the totem. 

At early morning on the appointed day the men assemble 
at the men's camp, where they decorate their foreheads, arms 
and noses with twigs of the Udnirringa bush and smear their 
bodies all over with dry red ochre. Then they march in 
single file, the .Alatunja at the head, to a spot about fifty 
yards from, and opposite to, the Erlukwirra or women's 
camp, where the women and children stand silently. Here 
the Alatunja, turning his back upon the women, places his 
hand as if he were shading his eyes and gazes away in the 
direction of the Intichiuma ground, each man as he does so 
kneeling behind him so as to form a straight line between 
the women and the Intichiuma ground. In this position they 
remain for some time, while the Alatunja chants in subdued 
tones. Af^er this has been done, all stand up, and the 
Alatunja goes to the rear of the column and gives the signal 
to start In perfect silence and with measured step, as if 
something of the greatest importance were about to take 
place, the men walk in single file, taking a direct course to 
the ground. Every few yards the Alatunja, who is in the 
rear, goes out first to one side and then to the other, to see 
that the men keep a straight line. 

' Yanmifa is the Arunla name for the "honey-anl" {Camfonolus infialui, 



After having traversed perhaps half a mile one man is sent 
by the Alatunja to the Ertnaiulunga to bring a special stone 
Churinga, which is required during the ceremony. 

The Intichiuma ground is situated in a depression in a 
rocky range, at a considerable elevation above the surrounding 
plains, and all over the depression are blocks of stone standing 
up on end and leaning in all directions, each of which is 
associated with a honey-ant man of the Alcheringa. 

The messenger sent to the Ertnatulunga arrives at the 
ground as the party approaches ; he has to go a long way 
' round, and must run the whole way. 

All the men then group themselves round a pit-like 
depression in the rocks which is surrounded with a horseshoe- 
shaped wall of stone, open at the western end. On the east 
side is an ancient mulga tree, which is the abode of the spirit 
of an Alcheringa man, whose duty it was to guard the sacred 
ground. In the centre of the pit is a stone, which projects for 
about eighteen inches above the ground, and is the Nanja of 
an Alcheringa man who originated here and performed 

On the arrival of the party the Alatunja at once goes down 
into the pit, and some time is spent in clearing out the debris, 
while the other men stand round in perfect silence. After a 
time he beckons to some of the older men to come down and 
assist him, and then they all begin to sing while the sacred 
stone, which represents an Alcheringa man called Erkiaka, is 
disclosed to view and taken out of the earth, together with a 
smaller smooth round pebble, which represents a mass of 
honey collected by the ants and carried about by the man. 

When the stone has been taken out it is rubbed over 
reverently with their hands by the old men, and then rubbed 
over with the smaller stone, after which it is replaced in the 
ground. This done, the big stone Churinga from the 
Ertnatulunga, which represents a mass of honey carried about 
by a celebrated (7it«ir<a^a/(i ^ of the Alcheringa, named Ilatirpa, 

1 Okiurabata means a gieat inslrucloi 01 teacher, and is at the ]ire^nt day 
applied iq the wise old men who are learned in tribal customs and leach them to 
ibe otiicrs. It ia a name only given to men who are both old and wise. The 
individual represented in Fig. 9 is a &unous Oiniraiala. 



is brought up. This Ilatirpa was the leader of the Yarumpa 
and sent out the wandering parties who started from this 
spot In the Ertnatulunga is a long, thin, stone Churinga, 
pointed at each end and evidently very old, the markings 
being nearly effaced, which represents the piece of wood 
which was carried by Ilatirpa for the purpose of dicing up 
the ants on which he fed. This and the lar^e Churinga are 
the only stone ones in this particular Ertnatulunga} 

The old Alatunja takes up the Churinga, and calling the men 
up one by one, each of them walks into the pit, and lies down, 
partly supported on the knees of two or three of the older 
men. In this position the Alatunja, keeping up all the time 
a low chant, first of all strikes each man's stomach sharply 
two or three times with the Churinga, and then moves it about 
with a kind of kneading action, while another old man butts 
at the stomach with his forehead. When all have passed 
through this performance the singing ceases, the Churinga 
is handed back to the man who brought it, with instructions 
to take it back to the Ertnatulunga, and the column forms 
again and marches back, taking a different course, which, 
however, just as on the first occasion, leads them past the 
women's camp, where again the women and children are 
standing in silence. 

On the way home a halt is made at a spot in the Ilyaba 
creek, where in the Alcheringa, as now, the final act of the 
ceremony was performed. On the banks of the creek are a 
number of mulga trees, each of which is associated with, in 
fact is the Nanja tree of, an Alcheringa man, who stood 
watching the performance as it was being conducted in the 
bed of the creek. In the same way the stones standing out 
from the banks have each of them their association with 
an Alcheringa man. On arrival at this spot all the men 
sit down, and about an hour is spent in singing of the 
Yarumpa men, of their marchings in the Alcheringa, of the 
honey, of the ant nests, of the great man Ilatirpa, and of those 
Yarumpa men who, in the Alcheringa, changed into the little 
birds now called Alpirtaka, which at the present day are 
the mates of the honey-ant people, to whom they point out 
' For the exact contents of (his £rtna^K/uniw, see p. 141. 



where the ant nests can be found. After some time the 
decoration of the Alatunja commences, while he leads the 
singing, which now has reference to the men on the 
banks, who are supposed, in spirit form, to be watching the 
performance from their Nanja trees. The decorations on 
the body of the performer are intended to represent the 
chambers in the ant nests, and those on the arms and neck the 
passages leading to the inner parts of the nests where the 
honey-ants are found. The performer squats on the ground, 
and for some time the other men run round and round him in 
the usual way, while he occupies himself with brushing the 
ground between his legs with little twigs, pausing every now 
and then to quiver. When this is over the decorations are 
removed, and the party starts back for the men's camp, 
passing as described, the women's camp on the way. 

Intichiuma of the Quatcha or Water Totem 
In connection with the making of rain there are certain 
ceremonies, some of which are not of the nature of sacred 
Quabara, and take the form of ordinary dancing festivals 
which any member of the tribe, men and women alike, 
irrespective of class or totem, are permitted to see ; but there 
is in addition to these a special and sacred ceremony, only 
shared in by the initiated men of the totem, and this is the 

As in the case of the kangaroo totem the majority of the 
members of the water totem belong to the Purula and Kumara, 
To them the secret of rain-making was imparted in the 
Alcheringa by an individual named Irtchwoanga, who also 
settled upon the exact places at which the ceremony should 
be performed. One of the most important of the water totem 
groups is a local subdivision of the Arunta people, inhabiting 
a district of about fifty miles to the east of Alice Springs, 
this part being known as Kartwia quatcka, or the "rain 
country." ' The Alatunja of this group at the present time is 
' The word Qnalchti, slriclly speaking, means water. Rain is Quakka unlima, 
n\ falling water, running walei is Quatcha wilima. Qiiaicha by itself is, however, 
often used to mean rain, and the name Karlviia quatcha is applied because the 
rain-makers of this locality are celebrated for their powers. 



a celebrated rain-maker, and the ceremony which is described 
below is the one which is performed by him. The office of 
Alatunja, or as it is called in these eastern groups 
" Chantchwa," descended to him from his father, who died 
recently, and the fact that he is now the head man, and not 
his elder brother, illustrates an interesting point in regard to 
the inheritance of the office of Alatunja in the Arunta tribe. 
The office has, in fact, descended to him, and not to his elder 

brother, for the simple reason that he was born a water 
man, while the woman who is the mother of both of them 
conceived the elder one in an opossum locality. The latter 
man is therefore the reincarnation of an Alcheringa opossum 
individual, and so it is of course impossible for him to be the 
head of a waiter group. If the old Alatunja had had no son 
of the right totem then the office would have descended to 
one of his blood brothers — always provided of course that he 
were of the right totem — and failing such a one, to some tribal 



brother or son of the water totem as determined upon by 
the elder men, or, more probably still, by the old Alatunja 
before his death. As soon as the Chantchwa has decided to 
hold the ceremony he sends out messengers, called Inwurra, 
to the surrounding groups, to inform them of his intention, and 
to call the members of the totem together. In addition to the 
latter other men are invited to come, though they will not be 
allowed to take any part in the actual Intichiuma ceremony. 
Each messenger carries in this instance a human hair girdle, a 
bunch of black cockatoo tail feathers and a hollow nose bone 
stopped at one end with a plug made of the resin obtained 
from the porcupine-grass, and ornamented at the other 
with a small bunch of owl feathers. These objects are the 
property of the Chantchwa, and to refuse to attend to the 
request of a messenger thus accredited would be considered 
a grave discourtesy, and the person committing such an 
offence would be spoken of as irquantha^ that is churlish. 

When all are assembled, those who are to take part in the 
ceremony, that is the men of the totem, march into camp, 
painted with red and yellow ochre and pipeclay, and wearing 
bunches of eagle-hawk feathers on the crown and sides of the 
head. At a signal from the Chantchwa all sit down in a line, 
and with arms folded across their breasts sing the following 
words for some time : — " Ulgaranti alkwarai lathrik alkwaranti 
ulgaraa-a" Suddenly, at another signal from the Chantchwa, 
all jump to their feet and silently march out of the camp. 
They walk in single file, and camp for the night at a spot 
some miles away. At daybreak they scatter in all directions 
in search of game, which is cooked and eaten, but on no 
account must any water be drunk, or the ceremony would fail. 
When they have eaten they again paint themselves, this time 
broad white bands of bird's down being fixed on as usual with 
human blood, so that they encircle the stomach, legs, arms, 
and forehead. Some of the older Purula and Kumara men 
have meanwhile been building a special bough wurley or hut. 
which is called nalyilta at a spot not far distant from the 
main camp, where all the women and those men who are not 
taking part in the ceremony have remained behind. The 
floor of the hut is strewn with a thick layer of gum leaves to 



make it as soft as possible, as a considerable time has to be 
spent lying down here. When the decorating is complete, 
the men march back, silently and in single file, to where the 
wurley has been built ; this always takes place about sun- 
set, and on reaching the hut the young men go in first and lie 
face downwards at the inner end, where they have to remain 
until the ceremony is over. Meanwhile, outside the wurley, 
some of the older men are engaged in decorating the Chant- 
chwa. Hair girdles covered with white down are placed all 
over the head, while the cheeks and forehead are covered with 
pipeclay and two broad bands of white down pass across the 
face, one over the eyebrows and the other over the nose. The 
front of the body has a broad band of pipeclay outlined with 
white down, rings of which adorn the arms. When fully 
decorated the Chantchwa takes up a position close to the 
opening into the wurley, from which extends, for thirty yards, 
a shallow trench. The old men, who sit around him, now 
begin to sing, and continue to do so for some time, the 
following words : — 

" Illunga ilaitwina unalla 

Illunga kau-wu lungalU 

Parlini yert artnuri elt aitnuri 

Yerra alt nartnUra alia 

Partinia yarraa alt 

Yeira alia partinia 

Vokaa wau waj." 

When the singing comes to an end the Chantchwa comes 
out of the wurley and walks slowly twice up and down the 
trench, while he quivers his body and legs in the most extra- 
ordinary way — far more than is customary in other ceremonies 
in many of which a quivering movement is a characteristic 
feature. While this performance is taking place the young 
men arise and join the old men in singing— 
" Puitaarau kurlaa 

Rumpaa ani 

Unipaakunla karla 

the Chantchwa's movements appearing to accord with the 
singing. When he re-enters the wurley the young men at 



once lie down again — in fact they are always in this position 
while the Chantchwa is in the wuriey. The same perform- 
ance is repeated at intervals during the night, the singing con- 
tinuing with but little intermission, until, just at daybreak, the 
Chantchwa executes a final quiver, which lasts longer than 
usual, and at the end of which he appears to be thoroughly 
exhausted, the physical strain of the performance having been, 
as can be well imagined, of a severe nature. He then declares . 
the ceremony to be at an end, and at once the young men 
jump to their feet and rush out of the wuriey, screaming in 
imitation of the spur-winged plover. The cry is heard in the 
main camp, and is taken up with weird effect by the men and 
women who have remained there. The decorations of the 
Chantchwa are removed, and then all march, led by him, to a 
spot just within sight of the main camp, where an old Purula 
or Kumara woman has cleared a large space and then covered 
it with gum-tree leaves. Here they lie down for a short time 
and then go to the main camp, where food and water await 
them. The whole performance may last forty-eight hours, 
and on the next night one of the ordinary rain dances, as they 
are popularly called by white men, is held, in which all the 
men take part, either as performers or as audience. The 
women do not perform, but may look on and assist in singing 
and beating time to the dancing of the men. 


About fifteen miles to the east of Henbury, on the Finke 
River, is a spot called by the natives Undiara.^ Here, at the 
base of a steep quartzite ridge, which runs east and west, and 
forms part of what is now called Chandler's Range, there lies 
under the shelter of a gum tree a small water-hole, which has 
ever since the far away times of the Alcheringa been associ- 
ated with the members of the Okira or kangaroo totem. From 

' The interesting fact that an importani ceremony, "designed to secnre success- 
fnl kangaroo hunts," and consisting in the letting of bloo<1, was held at this spot, 
was fiisl recorded by Dr. Stirling, who, in the Kfpcrt of the Horn Exptdilion, 
Pan iv., p. 67, has given on account of the spot, which is therein called Antiaira. 
After repeatedly hearing it pronounced \yj a large number of natives, we have 
adopted the spelling Undiara. 



the side of the water-hole the rocks rise perpendicularly for 
some fifty feet, and over them, in the short rainy seasons, the 
water falls from a pool on a rock ledge, behind which again 
■ rises the bare summit of the ridge. This pool arose to mark 
the spot where the Engwura fires burned in the Alcheringa, 
and the ledge is called by the natives the Mirra Engivura, or 
Engwura camp of the Alcheringa. In dry seasons there is no 
water. From the rocks a small gum creek meanders away, 
but is soon lost in the drj' sandy country stretching out to 
the south. 

Immediately on the eastern side of the water-hole is a 
shallow cave, about twenty feet in height and thirty in length, 
where the rocks have weathered in such a way as to leave a 
ledge of rock about ten feet high, running along the length of 
the cave, the top of which can be gained by a partly natural, 
partly artificial series of rough steps lying at the end next to 
the pool. Tradition says that on this ledge the Alcheringa 
men cooked and eat their kangaroo food. 

A short distance away from the eastern side of the cave is a 
curious rocky ridge, with a very sharply marked vertical slit, 
which indicates the spot where an Alcheringa Kumara man 
named Abmilirka performed the rite oi Ariltha upon himself. 

The ledge arose, so says tradition, in the first instance to 
mark the spot where the body of a great kangaroo was 
deposited in the Alcheringa. It was, in fact, the Nanja stone 
of this kangaroo inhabited by its spirit part ; and tradition 
says further that to this stone came great numbers of other 
kangaroo animals, who went into the earth, leaving theirspirits 
in the same way in the rocky ledge. To this tradition we 
shall have to refer at a later time, when discussing the nature 
of the Intichiuma ceremonies ; meanwhile the interesting point 
may be drawn attention to, that, just as the Alcheringa indi- 
vidual has his Nanja tree or stone, so in certain cases such 
as this the Alcheringa animal is possessed of one. In this 
instance, for example, the natives are very clear upon the 
subject that the tradition deals with an animal and not with 
an Alcheringa man — in fact, one of the latter was in pursuit 
of and killed the former, dragging the body into Undiara. 

Another tradition relates how one night a group of kangaroo 



Alchen'ntra men had arranged a number of Nurtimjas or 
sacred poles close by the water-hole,- with a specially large 
one in the centre and smaller ones all round it While they 
slept two Alcheringa women of the Unjiamba totem came 
down from the north, and verj- quietly, without waking the 
men, took away the lai^e Nurtiinja,, clambering up a slit, 
which is still to be seen in the perpendicular face of the rock 

The ledge of rock with stripes is the Nanja of a kangaroo, and the dark colour 
atxjve the striiies is blood, which has been jmured on to the rock during the 

above the pool, made their way to the north again to a place 
called Arapera, where they kept the Nurtunja, which figures 
prominently in certain ceremonies cotinected with that spot. 

This tradition, like very many others dealing with the 
Alcheringa times, may be, with little doubt, regarded as indi- 
cative of the fact that at some past time the women were 
possessed of greater privileges than the)' enjo)' at the present 

O 2 



day. There is a great gap between the Alcheringa and 
recent times, and a very noticeable feature is the change which 
has in some way been brought about with regard to the 
position of women. The contrast in this respect may be well 
seen from a comparison of the former tradition with one which 
relates to a time which the natives say was very long ago, but 
since the Alcheringa. At this time the women were not 
allowed to go anywhere near to Undiara, where the sacred 
Churinga of the group were stored. One day, however, a 
woman, being very thirsty, ventured in to the water-hole to 
drink and saw the sacred pool and the ceremonial stone. She 
was detected in the act, and after a great deal of what the 
natives call "growling" at her, it was decided to punish her 
by making her for the time being common property to all the 
men — a punishment which is not infrequently inflicted after 
the committal of some serious offence, as an alternative to 
that of being put to death. In consequence of this men of 
all classes had intercourse with her, and when this was over 
she was returned to her proper Unawa man. 

After, however, the woman had seen the place, the peculiar 
sacredness of the spot was lost, the Churinga were removed 
to another place, and the women were allowed to see the water- 
hole, except of course when the ceremony of Intickiuma was 
being performed. As a matter of fact, though a woman would 
not actually be put to death if she came near, the old feeling 
is still so strong that the women do not often venture near to 
the spot unless compelled to do so by thirst 

We may now give a short account of one or two traditions 
which are concerned with Undiara and the kangaroo totem, 
as they serve to illustrate certain points of interest in 
connection with the totems and totemic animals generally. 

The History of Ungutnika of Undiara 

At the present day there is living an aged man of the Okira 
or kangaroo totem, named Ungutnika. He is the reincarnation 
of a celebrated kangaroo of the Alcheringa, who sprang into 
existence at Undiara, close to the big gum tree which over- 
hangs the water pool. Ungutnika was sorely afflicted with 



boils, called Tukira, which appeared first in the form of hard 
lumps. He bore with them for a long time, and then, being 
angry, pulled them out and placed them on the ground alongside 
of where he sat.' They became changed into stones, and 
have remained there ever since. He was not as yet fully 
grown, and was an Okira kurka, or a little kangaroo, and 
after a short time he set out to go to a place called Okirilpa, 
After he had travelled about three miles, he came to an open 
plain, upon which he saw a mob of Ukgnulia, or wild dogs, 
who had come from Okirilpa, and were then lying down close 
to their mother, who was very large. He hopped about 
looking at the wild dogs, and presently they saw and chased 
him, and, though he hopped away as fast as he could, they 
caught him on a plain called Chulina, and, tearing him open, 
eat first his liver, and then, removing the skin, they threw 
it on one side and stripped all the meat from off the bones. 
When they had done this they again lay down. 

Ungutnika was not however completely destroyed, for the 
skin and bones remained, and, in front of the dogs, the skin 
came and covered the bones, and he stood up again and ran 
away, followed by the dogs, who caught him this time at 
Ulima, a hill a little to the north of a spot now called the Bad 
Crossing on the Hugh River, Ulima means the liver, and is 
so called because on this occasion the dogs did not eat the 
liver, but threw it on one side, and the hill, which is a dark- 
looking one, arose to mark the spot The same performance 
was once more gone through, and again Ungutnika ran away, 
this time as far as Pulpunja, which is the name given to 
a peculiar sound made in imitation of little bats, and at this 
spot Ungutnika turned round and, jeering derisively at the 
dc^s, made the noise. He was at once caught, cut open, and 
i^ain reconstituted himself, much to the wonder of his pursuers. 
After this he ran straight towards Undiara, followed by the 
d(^s, and when he reached a spot close to the water-hole they 
caught and eat him, and, cutting off his tail, buried it at the 
place where it still remains in the form of a stone, which 
is called the Churinga okira pura, or Kangaroo tail Chu- 
' The ceremony of producing evil magic at ihis spot is descrilied in Ihe chapter 
(fcalii^ with mBfiic. 



ringa, which is always shown and carefully rubbed at the 
Intichiuma ceremony. The Churinga which he carried with 
him was associated with his spirit part, and the latter has 
since entered into a woman and been born in human form. 

The Kangaroo and the Kangaroo Men 

A Kumara man named Ulpunta, whose last descendant 
was a celebrated medicine man, who died during the course of 
the Engwura ceremony described in this work, started from 
Okruncha, carrying only spears and other weapons and no 
Nurtunja. He was in pursuit of a large kangaroo, which 
carried a small Nurtunja, and followed it till he came close 
to Chuntilla, but being unable to catch it, gave up the chase 
and turned back, a stone arising to mark the spot. He ever 
afterwards stayed at Okruncha. The kangaroo went on and 
camped at Chuntilla, and a stone marks the spot where it 
stood up and looked over the country. Here it was seen by a 
Bulthara man of the Arunga or euro totem, who at once 
changed himself into an Okira or kangaroo man and gave 
chase to the kangaroo, as he wanted to kill and eat it. For a 
long way he followed the kangaroo, the two camping apart 
from each other at various places. At Thungalula or Pine 
Tree Gap, in the Macdonnell Range, the kangaroo made a 
large Nurtunja and carried it away to Ilpartunga, not far 
from Owen's Springs, a small sand-hill arising where the 
animal lay down, and a mulga tree xvhere the man camped. 
Travelling south along the Hugh River, they came to AUigera, 
where the kangaroo planted his Nurtunja, a large gum tree 
now marking the spot Hearing a noise, he raised himself up 
on his hind legs and saw a kangaroo running about A stone 
twenty-five feet high now represents him standing on his 
hind legs. After this he scratched out a hole for the purpose 
of getting water, and this hole has remained to the present day. 
Travelling south, he came to the Doctor's Stones, and here 
erected the Nurtunja for the last time, as he was too tired 
to carry it any further, so it was left standing and became 
changed into a fine gum tree, which is now called Apera 
Nurtunja, or the Nurtunja tree. 



Still following down the Hugh River, the kangaroo reached 
Ulpmura utterly worn out, and lay down. In a little time 
a number of kangaroo men from Undiara came up and saw the 
Bulthara man, who had also arrived. The Undiara men, 
using gesture language, said to the Bulthara man, " Have you 
got big spears ? " And he replied, " No, only little ones ; have 
you got big spears?" And they replied, "No, only little 
ones." Then the Bulthara man said, " Put down your spears 
on the ground ; " and they replied, " Yes, put yours down 
too." Then the spears were thrown down, and all the men 
advanced upon the kangaroo, the Bulthara man keeping 
in his hand a shield and his Churinga, The kangaroo was 
very strong and tossed them all about ; then they all jumped 
upon him, and the Bulthara man, getting underneath, was 
trampled to death. The kangaroo also appeared to be dead. 
They buried the Bulthara man with his shield and Churinga, 
and then took the body of the kangaroo into Undiara. The 
animal was not then really dead, but soon died, and was 
placed in the cave but not eaten. The rock ledge in the cave 
arose where the body was put, and when the animal was 
dead its spirit part went into this, which thus hiecame the 
animal's Nanja. Shortly afterwards the men died, and 
their spirit parts went into the water pool close by. Tradi- 
tion says that great numbers of kangaroo animals came 
at a later time to the cave, and there went down into the 
ground, their spirits also going into the stone. 


In the Alcheringa the Okjra or kangaroo men of Undiara 
belonged almost, but not quite, entirely to the Purula and 
Kumara moiety of the tribe ; and at the present day the same 
holds true, but to a somewhat less extent, for, as in the case 
of all totems, there is a certain admixture of the members of 
both moieties. The head man, or Alatunja, is a Purula, and 
under his direction the ceremony of Intichiuma is performed 
at intervals, though being now an old man, he sometimes 
deputes the performance to his eldest son, who will succeed to 
the position on the death of the old man. 



When the ceremony is to be performed a camp is made at 
a spot a httle to the west of the cave and out of sight of the 
water-hole, which is placed in a slight dip in the' range from 
which the small gum creek leads. Early in the morning of the 
day on which the ceremony is to take place, one of the younger 
men is sent on ahead to a special spot which lies about a 
hundred yards to the west of the water-hole. The object of 
this is to make certain that no women or uninitiated men, or 
men other than members of the totem, are in the neighbour- 
hood. The main body of men comes up skirting closely the 
base of the range, and halts at the place where the young man 
is stationed. Here there lies hidden underground a block of 
soft grey sandstone, about three feet in length and one foot in 
greatest diameter, its shape in transverse section being tri- 
angular. The apex of the stone lies about a foot below the 
surface, and as the men gather round the spot, the position 
of which is precisely known,^ the leader clears away the sand}' 
soil and brings the sacred stone into view. Its sides, worn 
smooth by constant rubbing, are covered over with smaller 
stones, amongst which is a special flattened one with which 
the rubbing is done. The Alatunja takes this stone in his 
hands, and in the presence of all the men, who stand round in 
perfect silence, rubs over the fexposed surface. When this has 
been done the stone may be lifted up so as to be seen better. 
It is the Ckuriiiga okira pura, that is, the tail of the Alcheringa 
kangaroo, which was driven in by the wild dogs from Okirilpa, 
and deposited by them, as already described, in the ground at 
this spot. Certain large blocks of sandstone, which have 
evidently tumbled down from the hillside and lay close by — 
the largest of them being fully eight feet in height — are said 
to represent the dead bodies of the wild dogs. 

After the stone has been rubbed by the Alatunja and then 
examined by all present, it is covered up and the party 
moves onward, still skirting the base of the hill, so that the 
cave and ceremonial stone are not seen until they are close 
at hand. A halt is made at the water-hole on the side away 
from the cave, where the men drink, and then come round 

' There is nothing on the suTface to indicate that anything lies hidden beneath, 
but the native who shotted iis the stone went straight to the place and unearthed ii. 



and sit right in front of, and at the base of the ceremonial 
stone. On the left hand, looking towards the stone, sit the 
Panunga and Bulthara men, and on the right the Purula and 
Kumara. Then the head man, who is at the present day a 
Purula, and a man to whom he is Gavimona, and who is 
therefore Bulthara, go out from the rest, who remain seated, 
and climb up the hill-side just to the east of the stone. Here 
at a height of about twenty feet above the level of the plain, 
are two special blocks of stone projecting immediately above 
one another from the hill-side. One is supposed to represent 
an " old man " kangaroo and the other a female. The former 
is rubbed with a stone by the Purula man and the latter by ; 
the Bulthara man. This over, the two men descend and', 
rejoin the main party, which is the signal for the decoration 
of the rock-ledge to begin. Red ochre and powdered and ' 
calcined gypsum are used, and with these alternate vertical *, 
lines are painted on the face of the rqpk, each about a foot 
in width, the painting of the left side being done by the' 
Panunga and Bukhara men, and that of the right by the 
Purula and Kumara. 

The red stripes are supposed to represent the red fur of 
the kangaroo {Macropus ru/us), while the white ones represent 
the bones. 

When the painting is done, a certain number of young 
men, perhaps two or three Panunga and Bulthara and five 
or six Purula and Kumara, go on to the top of the ledge. 
The former sit down at the left and the latter at the right 
side, and then they open veins in their arms and allow the 
blood to spurtle out over the edge of the ceremonial stone 
on the top of which they are seated. While this is taking 
place, the men below sit still watching the performers and 
singing chants referring to the increase of the numbers of the 
kangaroos which the ceremony is supposed to ensure. 

When the blood-letting is over, the old men go back to the 
camp and remain there, while the rest of the day is spent by 
the young men out on the rocks and plains in search of game, 
which is brought in and presented to the old men. This may 
extend over several days, and at night-time sacred Quabara 
are performed in camp. 



Relationship hktween the Individual and the 

There are certain points of considerable interest with 
regard to the totems which may be briefly referred to now, in 
which certainly the Arunta and Hpirra and, in all probability, 
others of the Central tribes agree together and differ, so far 
as is yet known, from other Australian tribes. The first point 
is the important one, to which we have had occasion to make 
frequent reference, as it is, we may say, the fundamental 
feature of the totemic system of these tribes, namely, that 
each individual is the direct reincarnation of an Alcheringa 
ancestor, or of the spirit part of some Alcheringa animal (as 
in the calse of Ungt:tnil^^of the kangaroo totem), which car- 
ried a Churinga, and the spirit assoeyated with which became, 
so to speak, human is^,..ajjJ}^bSequently entered a woman 
and was born in humai form. 

' The second point is concerned with the relationship which 
at the present day is supposed to exist between the indi- 
vidual and his totem. A man will only eat very sparingly 
of his totem, and even if he does eat a little of it, which is 
allowable to him, he is careful, in the case, for example, of 
an emu man, not to eat the best part, such as the fat.' The 
totem of any man is regarded, just as it is elsewhere,*as the 
same thing as himself; as a native once said to us when we 
were discussing the matter with him, "that one," pointing to 
his photc^raph which we had taken, " is just the same as me ; 
so is a kangaroo " (his totem). That they claim a special 
connection with, almost in certain respects a right to, their 
totemic animal or plant may be seen from the fact that, for 
example, in the witchetty grub totem, while the members of 
the latter do not eat it, or, at least, only sparingly them- 

' The people of the emu lotem very raicly eal the e^s, unless very hungry ami 
short of food, in which case they would eal, but not too abunJantly, If an emu 
man found a nesl of CEgs. and waji very hungry, he might cook one, but he would 
take the remainder in to camp and distribute them- If he were not very hungry 
all the e^s would be distrilnited. The flesh of the bird may lie eaten s|iarin(;ly, 
but only a very little of the fat ; the e^s and fat are more eiirinja or tabu tihan 
the meat. The same ]irinci]>le holils good thr<iueh all the lolems, a carpet snake 
man will eat sjiaringly of a ]ioor snake, but he will scarcely loueh the reptile if 
it be fal. 



selves, the members of the local group who do not belong to 
the totem must not eat it out of camp like ordinary food, but 
must bring it into camp and cook it there, else the men 
of the totem would be angry and the supply of grubs would 
fail. We may, in fact say, that each totemic group is sup- 
posed to have a direct control over the numbers of the animal 
or plant the name of which it bears, and further that, in theory 
at least, they have the first right to the animal or plant. That 
this is so, and that it is well recognised, will be seen from the 
following facts. 

The first is concerned with a curious, but suggestive use of 
a Churinga. In the possession of a man of the Akakia or 
plum tree totem, we found a stone Churinga, roughly circular 
in shape and about 8 cm. in diameter, wrapped up carefully 
in fur string, so as not to be seen by women as he carried it 
about with him. It was a Churinga, which had been specially 
made for him by a man who was Ikuntira or father-in-law to 
him. The man belonged to the euro totem, and the Churinga 
in question was marked with a design belonging to the same, 
a series of concentric circles in the middle of each side repre- 
senting the intestines of the animal, while two groups of 
semi-circles indicated, one of them a male, and the other a 
female euro. The Churinga had been sung over or charmedl 
by the euro man and then given by him to the plum tree\ 
man for the purpose of assisting the latter to hunt the animal.^ 

The second is a series of equally suggestive ceremonies, 
which are connected with the close of the Iniickiuma perform- 
ance in various local totem groups. 

After the performance ai Intkhiuma, the grub is, amongst the 
Witchetty grubs, tabu to the members of the totem, by whom 
it must, on no account, be eaten until it is abundant and fully 
grown ; any infringement of this rule is supposed to result in 
an undoing of the effect of the ceremony, and the grub sup- 
ply would, as a consequence, be very small. The men of the 
Purula and Kumara classes, and those of the Panunga and 
Bukhara, who are not members of the totem, and did not 
take part in the ceremony, may eat it at any time, but it 
must always be brought into camp to be cooked. It must, 
on no account be eaten like other food, out in the bush, or 



the men of the totem would be angry and the grub would 
vanish. When, after Intkhiuma, the grub becomes plentiful 
and fully grown, the witchetty grub men, women and children 
go out daily and collect large supplies, which they bring into 
camp and cook, so that it becomes dry and brittle, and then 
they store it away in pitchis and pieces of bark. At the 
same time, those who do not belong to the totem, are out 
collecting. The supply of grubs only lasts a very short time 
— the animals appearing after rain — and when they grow less 
plentiful the store of cooked material is taken to the Ungunja, 
or men's camp, where, acting as usual under instructions from 
the Alatunja, all the men assemble. Those who do not 
belong to the totem, place their stores before the men who 
do, and the Alatunja then takes one pitciti, and with the 
help of other men of the totem, grinds up the contents 
between stones. Then he and the same men all take and 
eat a little, and when this has been done, he hands back 
what remains to the other people. Then he takes one pitchi 
from his own store and after grinding up the contents, he 
and the men of the totem once more eat a little, and then 
pass the bulk of what remains over to those who do not 
belong to the totem. 

* After this ceremony the Witchetty grub men and women 
, eat very sparingly of the grub. They are not absolutely for- 
; bidden to eat it, but must only do so to a small extent for, 
if they were to eat too much, then the power of successfully 
performing the IntUhiuma would depart from them, and 
there would be very few grubs. On the other hand it is 
equally important for them, and especially for the Alatunja, 
to eat a little of the totemic animal as to eat none would 
have the same effect as eating too freely. 

In the ca,se of the kangaroo totem of Undiara, after the 
men have allowed the blood to pour out of their arms over 
the -Stone ledge they descend, and after rubbing themselves 
all over with red ochre return to the main camp, which is 
always placed at some distance from the rock so as to prevent 
the women and children from being able to see anything of 
what is going on. All of the younger men then go out hunting 
kangaroo which, when caught, they bring in to the older men 



who have stayed in camp. It is taken to the Ungunja, or 
men's camp, and there the old men of the totem, the Alatunja 
being in the middle of them, eat a h'ttle and then anoint the 
bodies of those who took part in the ceremony with fat from 
the kangaroo, after which the meat is distributed to all the 
men assembled. The men of the totem then paint their 
bodies with the totem design or Ilkinia in imitation of the 
painting on the rock at Undiara, and that night is spent in 
singing about the doings of the Alcheringa kangaroo people 
and animals. On the next morning the young men again go 
out hunting and bring in more kangaroo to the old men, and 
the ceremony of the previous day is repeated. The night is 
spent in singing, and the proceedings terminate with the 
performance of a number of sacred Quabara connected with 
Undiara, the great centre of the totem. After this the animal 
is eaten very sparingly by the kangaroo men, and there are 
certain parts, such as the tail, which are regarded as the 
choice bits, which a kangaroo man, or of course woman, must 
on no account touch. 

In the Irriakura totem (the Irriakura is the bulb of a 
Cyperaceous plant) the members of the totem do not, after 
Intichiuma, eat the totem for some time. Those who do not 
belong to the totem bring a quantity in to the Ungiittja, 
where it is handed over to the Alatunja and other men of the 
totem, who rub some of the tubers between their hands, thus 
getting rid of the husks, and then, putting the tubers in 
their mouths, blow them out again in ail directions. After 
this the Irriakura people may eat sparingly. 

In the Idnimita totem (the Idnimita is the grub of a large 
longicom beetle) the grub must not, after Intichiuma, be eaten 
by the members of the totem until it becomes plentiful, after 
which those men who do not belong to the totem collect it 
and bring it into the Ungunja, where the store is placed 
before the Alatunja and men of the totem, who then eat some 
of the smaller ones and hand back the remainder to the men 
who do not belong to the totem. After this the men of the 
totem may eat sparingly of the grub. 

In the Bandicoot totem the animal is not eaten, after 
Intichiuma, until it is plentiful. When it is, those who do 



not belong to the totem go out in search of one which, when 
caught, is brought into the Ungunja, and there they put some 
of the fat from the animal into the mouths of the bandicoot 
men, and also rub it over their own bodies. After this the 
bandicoot men may eat a little of the animal. 

It \*'ill be seen from what has now been described that at 
the present day the totemic animal or plant, as the case 
may be, is almost, but not quite, tabu or, as the Arunta 
people call it, ekirinja to the members of the totein. At 
the same time, though a man will tell you that his totem 
is the same thing as himself, he does not mean to imply 
by that what Grey says with regard to the totems of the 
natives whom he studied, and who always killed with re- 
luctance an animal belonging to their totem under the 
belief " that some one individual of the species is their nearest 
friend, to kill whom would be a great crime, and to be care- 
fully avoided."^ 

The members of each totem claim to have the power 
of increasing the number of the animal or plant, and in this 
respect the tradition connected with Undiara, the great 
centre of the kangaroo totem, just as the Emily gap is the 
great centre of the W'itchetty grub totem, is of especial interest. 
In the Alcheringa, as we have already described, a special 
kanf^aroo was killed by kangaroo men and its body brought 
to Undiara and deposited in the cave close by the water 
hole. The rocky ledge arose to mark the spot, and into this 
entered its spirit part and also the spirit parts of many other 
kangaroo animals (not men) who came subsequently and, as 
the natives say, went down into the earth here. The rock is 
in fact the Nanja stone of the kangaroo animaLs, and to them 
this particular rock has just the same relationship as the 
water hole close by has to the men. The one is full of spirit 
kangaroo animals just as the other is full of spirit men and 
women. The purpose of the Intichiuma ceremony at the 
present day, so say the nati\es, is by means of pouring out 
the blood of kangaroo men upon the rock, to drive out in all 
directions the spirits of the kangaroo animals and so to 
increase the number of the animals. The spirit kangaroo 
' JcHiiiah of Two Exf^diliiiiis, vol. ii., ]i. laS. 



enters the kangaroo animal in just the same way in which 
the spirit kangaroo man enters the kangaroo woman. 

In this tradition we have probably the clue to the general 
meaning of the series of Intkhiuma ceremonies, the object of 
each of which is to increase the number of the totemic animal 
or plant. Further still, attention may be drawn to the fact 
that the object of increasing the number of the totem is, in 
all cases, such as that of the Hakea or the Irriakura or plum 
tree amongst plants, or the kangaroo, euro, lizard, snake and 
so forth amongst animals, in which the totemic animal or 
plant is an article of food, that of increasing the food supply. 
That the totemic animal or plant is not regarded exactly as a 
close relative, whom it would be wrong to kill or to assist 
anyone else to kill, is very evident ; on the contrary, the 
members of one totem not only, as it were, give their per- 
mission to those who are not of the totem to kill and eat the 
totemic animal or plant, but further, as shown clearly in the 
case of the euro man who made and charmed a special 
Churinga with the express object of assisting a plum tree 
man to catch euro, they will actually help in the destruction 
of their totem. 

The question of the killing and eating of the totem which 
this opens up, quite apart from the ceremonial eating of a 
small portion of the same, after the performance of /w/ZcAiaww, 
is, so far as these tribes are concerned, one of considerable 
difficulty to deal with. We may first of all draw attention to 
certain points in the traditions which bear upon the question. 
These traditions or myths, whichever they be called, cannot ' 
be regarded as having been invented simply to account for . 
certain customs now practised, for the simple reason that they 
reveal to us a state of organisation and a series of customs , 
quite different from, and in important respects at variance 
with, the organisation and customs of the present time. In 
connection with the eating of the totem, for example, though 
we find very circumstantial references to this, there is no 
attempt to explain how the present tabu arose, but we find, 
on the contrary, that, in the far away times to which the 
traditions are supposed to refer, there simply was no such 
tabu. Under these circumstances we are probably justified 



in regarding the traditions in question as actually indicative 
of a time when customs in this and in other respects were 
very different from those in force at the present day. 

So far as the eating of the totem is concerned the following 
incidents, amongst others, are of importance. A euro man 
named Algura-wartna was in pursuit of a euro which carried 
fire in' its body. After following it up for some time the 
man killed it and, taking the fire out of its body, cooked 
therewith some euro which he carried with him. After that 
he cooked and eat the one which he had killed. 

In a. Quabara relating to an Orunclia ^ man, the decoration 
on the head referred to an Idnimita (grub of beetle) man who 
was killed by this Onmcha. The man was carrying with 
him Idnimita grubs, which were specially represented in the 
decorations, and on which he was feeding. 

In a Chankuna (small edible berry) ceremony a Chankuna 
man was represented as eating the berries which he plucked 
from his beard. 

At a spot called Erathippa a plum tree woman was out 
finding plums to eat when a man came and stole her Nurtunja 
which she had left in camp. 

An Irpunga (fish) man was seen by certain wild cat men 
during their wanderings, fishing in a small pool to catch the 
fish on which he fed. 

An opossum man was robbed by another man of the 
moon which he carried about with him at night time so as to 
help him to catch opossums. 

During the wanderings of a party of wild cat men they are 
reported to have come to a certain spot where they met some 
men who were what is called Ulpmerka of the plum tree 
totem. The wild cat men went into the earth and arose as 
plum tree men, and after that went on eating plums. 

A bandicoot woman started out with a Hakea woman. 
After some time, she, the bandicoot woman, made Quabara 
undatiha, that is performed a sacred ceremony, and painted 
the Hakea woman with down used during the ceremony, thu.s 
changing her into a bandicoot woman, after which, says the 
tradition, the latter went on feeding upon bandicoot 
' Oriiiicha is the native name foi a mischievous spirit. 



An Arunga or euro man started out in pursuit of a 
kangaroo which he was anxious to kill and eat but, to enable 
himself to do this, he first of all changed himself into a 
kangaroo man. 

These and other statements of a similar nature are so 
precise (they are, as it were, often dragged into the tradition 
apropos of nothing), and are yet so entirely different from the 
present customs of the tribe, that they can only be under- 
stood on the hypothesis that they refer to a former time in 
which the relationship of the human beings to their totemic 
animals or plants was of a different nature from that which 
now obtains. 

At some earlier time it would appear as if the members of 
a totem had the right to feed upon the totemic animal or 
plant as if this were indeed a functional necessity, though at the 
same time it must be remembered that in the same traditions 
from which the ah>ove extracts have been made for the 
purpose of drawing attention to this feature, there are also 
plenty of references to men and women eating animals and 
plants other than their own totem.^ The idea of a kangaroo 
man freely eating a kangaroo or a bandicoot woman feeding 
on bandicoots is so totally opposed to the present custom of 
the tribe that we are obliged to regard these traditions as 
referring to a past time when customs in respect of the 
totems were different from what they are now. 

In his Vocabulary of the Dialects of South-Western Australia? 
Sir George Grey, when giving the meaning of certain of the 
native names for totems, says, in regard to the Ballaroke, a 
small opossum, "Some natives say that the Ballaroke family 
derived their name from having in former times subsisted 
principally on this little animal " ; and again of the Nag-karm 
totem, he says, " From subsisting principally in former times 
on this fish, the Nagarnook family are said to have obtained 
their name." In regard further to five totemic groups, which 
bear the names of birds, he says, that they, that is the 

' Wild cat men, for example, are represented constantly as feeding upon plums ; 
certain liiards on grass seed, while others fed exclusively on liiards ; quails on 
Sjrass seed, e(c 

- As quoted by Mr. McLennan, Studies in Ancient Hislery,sei:oaAiei'K&, p. 496. 



members of the respective totems, are said to be the birds 

transformed into men. The curious agreement between this 

and what we have just described as occurring in the Arunta 

( tribe is of considerable interest. In the latter, the belief in 

fthe origin of the members of any totem from the animal or 
plant whose name they bear is universal and is regarded 
as a satisfactory reason for the totemic name. It may be 
that in the traditions dealing with the eating of the totem, 
we have nothing more than another attempt to explain the 
origin of the totem name. Judging, however, from the 
curious traditions of the Arunta tribe, taken in conjunction 
with the ceremonies of Intichiutna, this does not seem to be 
so probable as that they point back to a past time when 
the restrictions with regard to the eating were very different 
from those now in force. It is quite possible that the curiotis 
ceremony in which the members of any local group bring in 
to the men's camp stores of the totemic animal or plant and 
place them before the members of the totem, thus clearly 
recognising that it is these men who have the first right of 
eating it, as well as the remarkable custom according to 
which one man will actually assist another to catch and kill 
his — i.e., the former's — totemic animal, may be surviving relics 
of a custom according to which, in past times, the members 
of a totem not only theoretically had, but actually practised, 
the right of eating their totem. 

It may perhaps be that this eating of the totem shows that 
for some reason, as Mr. Frazer^ has suggested in the case of 
certain other tribes in which the totem is eaten, the respect 
for the totem has lessened in comparison with what it once 
was ; but, in face of the solemn ceremony of Intichitima and 
of the explicit traditions to which reference has been made, it 
is difficult to believe that this can be so. The two traditions, 
in one of which a bandicoot woman is stated to have changed 
her companion, a Hakea woman, into a bandicoot woman, 
who after that went on feeding on bandicoot, while in the 
other a euro man is described as changing himself into a 
kangaroo man for the purpose of being able to pursue, kill 
and eat a kangaroo, are perhaps sufficient to show, taken in 
' Tolimism, p. 19. 



conjunction with the Intickiuma ceremonies, that, in the 
Arunta and Ilpirra tribes, a man is most intimatelyassociated 
with his totem, but in a way quite unlike that which is usually 
associated with the idea of a totem. At the same time, 
though the relationship is different In certain respects from 
that which exists in other tribes, yet it will be clearly seen 
that what have been described as the totems ^ree in funda- 
mental points with the definition given by Mr. Frazer,' viz., 
" A totem is a class of material objects which a savage regards\ 
with superstitious respect, believing that there exists between I 
him and every member of the class an intimate and altogether J 
special relation ; " and further still we can see, to use Mr. \ 
Frazer's terms, the existence of both a social and a religious 
aspect The former is not so strongly developed as it is in 
many other Australian tribes, whom not only does 
the totem regulate marriage, but the members of the totem 
are bound to mutually assist one another. In the Arunta tribe 
the most striking feature from a social point of view is the 
strongly local character, though at the same time it must be 
remembered that any initiated member of a particular totem, 
whatever local group he belongs to, may take part in the 
totemic ceremonies. The religious aspect is most clearly seen 
in connection with the ceremonies of Intickiuma and the 
subsequent solemn eating of the totem, though here again 
the relationship between the man and his totem cannot be 
described ag one "of mutual respect and protection."* It ^ 
seems as if, in the case of the Central Australian tribes, the 
totemic system has undei^one a somewhat curious develop- 
ment ; at all events, it differs in certain respects from that 
of all other Australian tribes with which we are as yet 

' op. cit. p. I. ' 0/. cit. p. 20. 



liibe — Enumeration of 
unta and Ilpirra tribes— Absence of ihe knocking 
out of teeth as an initiation rile — Ceremonies amongst natives of Finite 
River — First ceremony — Throwing the boy up in the air — The second cere- 
mony—Circumcision or Lartna — The Apilla ground — Women dancing — 
Decorating of ihe boy— Apjxiintment of officials lo conduct various parts of 
the ceremony — Boy receives title of Wurtja — Handing the firestlck to the boy — 
Seclusion in the bush — Performance of certain sacred ceremonies — Ceremon' 

ling off 

of Okoara—Tht Wauinga, its conslruction and meaning — Woi 
with the Wurtja — ^Appointing an official to paint a lotemic design on tne 
novice's back — Painting of Hie boy — Bringing in of the Arackilta poles — 
Two women rub (he design off Ihe boy's baA— The women stripping the 
Aroikilla poles while the men dance— Setting lire to the brakes — The women 
retire — Areuhilla poles placed on the IVurlja — Performance of Ihe actual 
ceremony — Presentation to the notice of the men who had acted as officials- 
Giving Churinga lo the novice and sending him into the bush — Reslriclioni 
to tie observed by certain relatives of the boy while he is out in the bush — 
Ceremony of head-biting— -Ceremony of subincision or Arillka kuma — The 
Kiirlunja, its construction and meaning — Burning the blood after Arillka — 
Men submitting to a second operation of Atillha — Recovery from subincision 
— Taking ihe Ertv/a-kurka to the women — Elder sislers cutting off hair from 
the £rftoa-iHr^— Throwing a boomerang in the direction of the mother's 
camp in the Alchcringa — Putting the Ettam-kurka on the fire — Various grades 
passed through during initiation — Ceremony of circumciaon in Ihe northern 
pan of the iribe— Meaning of subincision— Nothing to do with preventing 
procreation — Customs in the Southern Arunta — Initiation of women. 

Every Australian native, so far as is known, has in the 
normal condition of the tribe to pass through certain cere- 
monies of initiation before he is admitted to th^ secrets of 
the tribe, and is reglarded as a fully developed member 
of it. These ceremonies vary both in their nature and 
number to a very lai^e extent in different' tribes. Those 
of the eastern and south-eastern coastal districts are entirely 
different from those of the central tribes, amongst whom 
they are more elaborate and spread over a long series of 
years, the first taking place at about the age of ten or 



twelve, whilst the final and most impressive one is not 
passed through until probably the native has reached the 
age of at least twenty-five, or it may be thirty. In 
the Arunta and Ilpirra tribes the ceremonies are four in 
number 1 — 

(1) Painting and throwing the boy up in the air. 

(2) Circumcision or Lartna. 

(3) Subincision or Arittha. 

(4) The Engwura or fire ceremony. 

The times at which these take place and the details of the 
ceremonies vary to a certain extent in various parts of the 
tribes, which, it must be remembered, occupy an area of 
country stretching from Charlotte Waters in the south to at 
least 100 miles north of Alice Springs, that is over an area 
measuring 300 miles north and south by at least lOD miles 
east and west, and comprising in the south a wide extent of 
upland, stony plains and sand hills, and in the north a suc- 
cession of ranges running east and west, and reaching an 
elevation of 5,oco feet. 

One of the most noticeable features of the ceremonies, from 
a negative point" of view, is the absence of the knocking out 
of teeth as a general custom associated with the initiatory 
rites. Amongst many tribes of the eastern coastal district 
this forms a prominent feature, but amongst the Central 
Australian natives, whilst it may be performed, it has nothing 
to do with initiation, and is, in fact, practised by men as well 
as women, the rite having no sacred significance of any kind ; 
and yet, as we shall see later, there is not only evidence which 
shows that it has once been a ceremony of greater importance 
than it is at the present day, but also that there are certain 
details which are curiously similar to those concerned with 
the ceremony in parts where it forms the most important 
initiation rite. 

In the case of particular local groups amongst the Arunta, 
as, for example, the natives now living in the district to the 
north and north-east of Alice Springs, it is much more widely 
practised than elsewhere ; but,speaking generally, the knocking 
out of teeth is amongst the Arunta and other central tribes 

Do,i,.cd by Google 


a matter partly of individual and partly of local taste and 
fashion.* The custom is probably to be regarded as one 
which was at some distant time prevalent amongst the 
common ancestors of the central and eastern coastal tribes, 
but which has undergone changes as the tribes became 
separated from one another and developed, so far as their 
customs are concerned, along different lines. In some it has 
retained its old significance, or may have even acquired still 
greater importance as an initiatory rite, but in others, as, for 
example, all those inhabiting the central area, it has lost its 
old meaning, its place has been taken by other rites, and now 
it is merely what we may call a rudimentary custom. 

To a certain extent, as we have said, the details of the 
various initiation ceremonies differ in different parts of the 
tribe. We will first of all describe them as carried out in the 
groups living on the Finke River, and will then point out 
variations in the ceremonies as they are enacted, first in the 
northern, and secondly in the southern parts. 

The First Ceremony— Throwing the Boy up 

The first ceremony takes place when a boy is between ten 
and twelve years of age. The men, and in this instance the 
women also, assemble at a central spot near to the main camp, 
and the boys who have reached the right age — the number 
varying from ceremony to ceremony — are taken one by one 
and tossed in the air several times by the men, who catch 
them as they fall, while the women dance round and round 
the group, swinging their arms and shouting loudly, "fatt, 
pan, paii-a-a" the last cry being very prolonged.* This over 
the boys are painted on their chests and backs, as shown in 
the illustration, with simple designs consisting of straight or 
curved bands outlined by lines of red or yellow ochre. These 

' Roth points oul that in the tribes studied by him the knocking out of teeth is 
independent of any initiation rite, op. cil~, p. 170. 

' In the initiation of the Kurnai, Mr. Howitt describes how at the beginning of 
the ceremony each boy is thrown into the air by the iiilUrwang, or man in 
choi^ofhim. Kamilrvi and A'umai, \i. 196, 



have not of necessity any reference to the totem of the boys. 
They are painted by men who stand to the boys in the 
relation of Umbima, that is, brother of a woman whom the 
boy may marry. In some cases, at all events, they are 
copied from old rock paintings, certain of which are associated 
with particular totems, but the boy will not of necessity be 
decorated with a design of his own totem. Certain of these 
particular designs are described in connection with the sacred 
drawmgs. If the boy has what is called an Unjipinna • man, 
then it is the latter who will draw the design upon him at the 
close of the ceremony of throwing up. 

In all the ceremonies of initiation the youth or man has 
certain designs painted on his body, and in no case have they 
of necessity any reference to his own totem, though they are 
emblematic of some totem with which usually the man who 
does the painting is associated. These designs come under 
the general term of Ilkinia, the name applied to the designs, 
as a whole, which are emblematic of the totems ; and so long 
as the boy, youth or man has one or other of these 
painted on him, it does not signify which. It must be 
remembered that the man who does the painting is usually 
the person who decides upon the nature of the design, and 
it may also be noted that in the performance of sacred cere- 
monies men are constantly decorated with designs of totems 
other than their own. 

In the case of this, the first of the initiatory ceremonies, 
the painting of each boy is done as stated by men who stand 
to him in the relationship of Umbima, that is, a man who is 
the brother of a woman of the class from which his, i.e. the 
boy's, wife must come. The design is called Enchichichika, 
and while they are being painted the boys are told that the 
ceremony through which they have just passed will promote 
their growth to manhood, and they are also told by tribal 
fathers and elder brothers that in future they must not play 
with the women and girls, nor must they camp with them as 

1 If a woman, whose daughter has been alloued to a man, has a son bom before 
she has a daughter, the man may, if he elects to do so, renounce his right to the 
daughter, and becomes Unjipinna to the boy, who has, imlil he is initiated, Co 
provide the man wilh his hair. 



they have hitherto done, but hencerorth they must go to the 
camp of the men, which is known as the Unganja. Up to 
this time they have been accustomed to go out with the 

women as they searched for vegetable food and the smaller 
animals such as lizards and rats ; now they begin to accompany 
the men in their search for larger game, and begin also to look 



forward to the time when they will become fully initiated and 
admitted to all the secrets of the tribe, which are as yet kept 
hidden from them. 

iMTrATioN, pAmrmc ; 

The ceremony of throwing up is called Alkirakkvuma (from 
alkira the sky, and iwuma to throw), and very shortly after this 
sometimes even before it, the boy has his nasal septum bored 



through, usually by his father or paternal grandfather, and 
b^ins to wear the nose bone. This boring is practised by 
men and women alike, and the operation is attended by a 
short but interesting special ceremony, which is elsewhere 
described. Amongst the women the nose boring is usually 
done by the husband immediately after marriage, and it may 
be remarked in passing that in both sexes the constant wear- 
ing of the nose bone emphasises the flattening out of the 
lobes of the nose, 

A good many years may elapse between the throwing up 
ceremony and the performance of the two much more im- 
portant ceremonies of circumcision or Lartna, and that of 
subincision or Ariltka. Speaking generally, it may be said 
that circumcision may take place at any age after the boy has 
arrived at puberty. 

Before the time at which the boy is thrown up in the air 
he is spoken of as an Ambaquerka, which is the term applied 
to a child generally, of whichever sex it may be. After the 
throwing up, and until the ceremony of circumcision, he is 
called Ulpmerka. 

TiiK Second Ceremony — Circumcision or Lartna 

When it has been decided by the boy's elder male relatives 
(usually his elder brothers) that he has arrived at the proper 
age, preparations are made unknown to him, for the carry- 
ing out of the ceremony. These consist first of all in the 
gathering together of a lai^e supply of food material for the 
ceremonies are attended with the performance of what are 
usually spoken of as corrobborees, which last over several days. 
If a stranger belonging to any other group happens to be 
present in camp when the operation is being performed he will 
take part in the proceedings, but in the Arunta tribe there is 
usually no sending out of messengers to other groups to bring 
them in to the performance, as there is in the coastal tribes ; 
nor is it usual to operate upon more than one, or at most 
two, novices at the same time ; each boy is initiated when 
he is supposed to have reached the proper age, and the 
ceremony is controlled by the men of his own local group. 



who may ask any one to take part or not in it just as they 
feel disposed. 

In the following account we will describe what took place 
during an actual ceremony, which was conducted recently by 
a group of natives associated with a spot called Undiara,' 
one of the most important centres of the kangaroo totem 
situated near to the Finke River. It must always be remem- 
bered that the details of these initiation ceremonies vary to a 
certain extent according to the locality in which they are 
performed ; thus at Undiara the men of the kangaroo totem 
directed the proceedings, and therefore sacred ceremonies 
concerned with this particular totem were much in evidence ; 
had Undiara been an emu locality then emu ceremonies 
would have predominated. Bearing this in mind, the cere- 
mony now to be descrit>ed maj' be regarded as typical of the 
rite of circumcision as carried out by the natives living along 
the Finke River, who are often spoken of as Larapinta blacks 
to distinguish them from other groups, Larapinta being the 
native name of the river. 

The boy was seized early in the evening at the Ungunj'a, or 
men's camp, by three young men, who were respectively 


A, place where the men at ; C, place where the women dance ; Z>, spot where 
the operation is carried out ; d, brake in front of which the men sit ; t, brake 
behind which the novice sits ; F, banks of the Apulia with ]Kithway bctweee. 

Okilia, Umbirna and Unkulla to him. As soon as they laid 
hands on him they shouted loudly, " Utckai, utchai," while 
being frightened, he struggled, trying to get free from them. 
He was at once carried off bodily to the ceremonial ground 
which had been carefully prepared at some distance from and 
out of sight of the main camp, so that the women, when at 
the latter, could not see anything of what was taking place at 

' For a description of Undiara, and the traditions and ceremonies associated 
with it, see Chapter VI,, p. 193 lyji. 



the former, which is called the Apulia. The nature of this 
can be seen from the accompanying plan. A path about 
five feet wide is cleared of grass and shrubs, and the surface 
soil is heaped up on either side, so as to form a low, narrow 
bank of the same length as the path, which is some forty or 
Bfty feet in length, and always made so as to run east and 
west. At a distance of about forty feet from the eastern end 
was a brake of boughs at which the men were assembled. The 
women were grouped at the spot marked C, 

Once on the ground, and in the presence of all the men and 
women, the boy made no further resistance, but apparently 
resigned himself to his fate. He was taken to the men and 
sat down amongst them, while the women, who had been 
awaiting his arrival, at once began to dance, carrying shields 
in their hands. The reason assigned for this is that in the 
Alcheringa certain women called Unthippa • carried along with 
them as they travelled over thecountry a number of young boys 
who were just being initiated. As they travelled along, dancing 
the whole way, they also carried shields : and therefore it is 
that, at the present day, the initiation ceremony must commence 
with an imitation of the Unthippa dance of the Alcheringa.* 
Except in connection with this ceremony women may never 
carry shields, which are exclusively the property of the men, 
just as much as a digging-stick is the peculiar property of a 
woman. While the women were dancing the men sang of the 
marching of the Unthippa women across the country. After 
the boy had watched and listened for some time, an Unkulla * 
man came up and twined round and round his hair strands of 
fur string, until it looked as if his head were enclosed in a 
tight-fitting skull cap. Then a man who was Gammona to 
him came up and fastened round his waist a large Uliara, 
that is, the human hair girdle worn by the men, the girdle 
being provided by an Oknia of the boy. The two first-named 
men were respectively the brother of the boy's mother and the 

' For an account of these see p. 441. 

^ Roth describes the women as decorated after the manner of warriors aboul lo 
engage in a fight during the early part of the proceedings, op. cit., p. 170. 

' If the boy had had an Unjiptnna man, that is an Umbima who had waived 
his right lo the boy's sister as wife, then it would liave been the duly of this man 
to tie the hair ap. 



son of this man, the Oknia being a tribal brother of the boy's 
father who was dead, as also was the actual mother. After 
this a council of the Oknia and Okilia^ of the novice was 
held, and three men, who were respectively Mura, Gamtnona 
and Chimmia, were told off to take the boy away and paint 
him. These men are afterwards called Wulya, or, Uwilia, by 
the boy. They first of att went away and built a second 
brake of bushes at the western end of the Apulia, at a 
distance of about forty feet from the end of the cleared path, 
so that in position the second brake corresponded to the first 
one at the opposite end. This was henceforth to be the 
brake behind which the boy had to remain except when 
brought on to the ground to witness performances. When 
this had been made the three men returned and led the boy 
through the dancing women to his brake, where, with great 
deliberation, they rubbed him all over with grease, and then 
decorated his body with pinkish-white clay and bird's 

During all the proceedings every detail, such as the 
appointing of the various officials, was determined upon by a 
council of men consisting of the Oknia (tribal fathers) and 
Okilia (blood and tribal elder brothers) of the novice, and of 
this council the elder Oknia was head man. 

After painting him, the Uwilia told the boy that he was 
now no longer an Ulpmerka but a Wurtja, that during the 
proceedings about to follow he must render implicit obedience, 
and on no account must he ever tell any woman or boy any- 
thing of what he was about to see. Should he ever reveal 
any of the secrets, then he and his nearest relations would 
surely die. He must not speak unless spoken to, and even 
then his words must be as few as possible, and spoken in a 
low tone. He was further told to remain crouched down behind 
his brake when left there, and that on no account must he 
make the slightest attempt to see what the men at their brake 
were doing. Should he try to see what was going on at the 
Apulia, except when taken there and told to watch, some 

' In using these (emis we include, unless specially stated to the contrary, tribal 
as well as blood relations ; the Oknia, lot example, include the actual father and 
alio the talher's brothers. 



great calamity would happen to him — Twanyikira, the great 
spirit whose voice was heard when the bull-roarers spoke, 
would carry him away. When these instructions had been 
given to him by the Uwilia they went away, and he was then 
visited by his OkiHa, who repeated precisely the same instruc- 
tions, and after this the IVurtJa was left for an hour or two 
to his own reflections. Meanwhile a man had been appointed 
to act as Urintfiantima, whose duty will be seen shortly, and 
until daylight dawned the dancing and singing went on with 
astonishing vigour. Then one of the Okilia went and brought 
back the Wurtja, passing with him as before through the 
middle of the dancing women, who opened out to allow them 
to pass through, and placed him sitting on the tap of the 
Urintliantima man. 

The oldest Mia woman of the boy (his actual Mia or 
mother being dead) had brought with her from her own camp 
a fire-stick, which she had been careful to keep alight all 
night. At daylight she lit a fire by means of this, and then 
took two long sticks with which she had provided herself, 
and, lighting them at the fire, went and sat down, holding 
them in her hands, immediately behind the Urinthantima 
man. The Uwinna, that is the sisters of the boy's father, went 
and also sat down along with her. Then, as the men began 
to sing a special fire song, she handed one of the fire-sticks to 
the woman who was the Mura tualcka of the boy, that is the 
woman whose eldest daughter, bom or unborn, has been 
assigned to the Wurtja as his future wife, so that she is 
potentially his mother-in-law. While the singing went on 
this woman approached the boy, and, after tying round his 
neck bands of fur string, she handed to him the fire-stick,' telling 
him as she did so to always hold fast to his own fire — in 
other words not to interfere with women assigned to other 
men. After this, at a signal from an old Okilia, the Wurtja 
got up and ran away, followed by a number of shouting 
boys, who after a short time returned, and, along with the 
women, left the Apulia ground and ran back to the main 
camp. The old Mia took her fire-stick with her, and in camp 

' l^c handing of the Rrestick is called Unckaikulkna, and ihe fire is n^rded 
as being of a sacied charactei. 



guarded it with great care, fixing it at an angle into the 
ground so as to catch the wind and ensure its being kept 
alight. The Wurtj'a had, whilst in his camp, to guard his 
fire-stick in just the same way, and was cautioned that if 
he lost it, or allowed it to go out, both he and his Mia 
would be killed by Kurdaitcka. On the day on which he 
was taken back to the camp, they both threw away their 

When the Wurtja left the Apulia, he was accompanied by 
some Okilia and Unkulla men who remained out in the 
bush with him for three days. During this time nothing of 
any special nature happened to him beyond the fact that he 
might not speak unless he was first spoken to, which seldom 
took place, and that he might not eat freely, though as yet he 
was not bound by the restrictions with r^ard to food which 
he would shortly have to obey. The main object of this 
partial seclusion is to impress him with the fact that he is 
about to enter the ranks of the men, and to mark the break 
between his old life and the new one ; he has no precise 
knowledge of what is in store for him, and the sense that 
something out of the ordinary is about to happen to him — 
something moreover which is of a more or less mysterious 
nature — helps to impress him strongly with a feeling of the 
deep importance of compliance with tribal rules, and further 
still with a strong sense of the superiority of the older men 
who know, and are familiar with, all the mysterious rites^ 
some of which he is about to learn the meaning of for the 
first time. 

On the fourth day the Wurtja was brought back, and at 
once placed behind his brake, which is called Atnumbanta, 
and from which he might not move without the permission of 
one of the Okilia who had been told off to guard him, and 
whose father was the Oknia who acted as the head man of 
the council. On the night of the fourth day the men sang of 
the marchings of the men of the Ullakuppera (little hawk) 
totem in the Alcheringa, and of their operations with their 
famous Lialira or stone knives. It was these men who, 
according to tradition, first introduced the use of a stone 
knife at circumcision, the operation having been previously 



conducted by means of a fire-stick.^ At times they broke 
into the Lartna song : 

which is always sung in loud fierce tones. About midnight 
two Okilia went to the JVurija's brake, and having put a 
bandage round his eyes led him to the men who sat as usual 


on the side of their brake facing towards the Apulia. Here 
he was placed lying face downwards, until two men who were 
going to perform a ceremony were in position between the 
Apulia lines. The Quabara, which they were about to per- 
form, was one of a certain number which are only performed 
at a time such as this, though in all important respects these 
Quabara are identical with those performed during various 
' In the southern part of the tribe the tradition is that an aged woman, angry 
because of the number of boys who were killed in consequence of the use of a fire- 
slick for circaincision, showed ihe men how to use a stone knife. 



ceremonies concerned with the totems. When the boy was 
told by his Okilia and Oknia to sit up and look he saw, lying 
in front of him, and on his side, a decorated man whom the 
Okilia and Oknia, both of them speaking at once, told him 
represented a wild dog. At the other end of the Apulia a 
decorated man stood, with legs wide apart, holding up twigs 
of Eucalyptus in each hand, and having his head ornamented 
with a small Waninga} which is a sacred object emblematic 

of some totemic animal, in this particular case a kangaroo. 
This man moved his head from side to side, as if looking for 
something, and every now and then uttered a sound similar to 
that made by a kangaroo, which animal he was supposed to 
represent. Suddenly the dc^ looked up, saw the kangaroo, 
b^an barking, and, running along on all fours, passed between 
the man's legs and lay down behind the man, who kept watch- 
ing him over his shoulder. Then the dog ran again between 
the kangaroo- man's legs, but this time he was caught and well 
' For a description of this, see page 33 1 sq. 




shaken, and a pretence was made of dashing his head against 
the ground, whereupon he howled as if in pain. These move- 
ments were repeated several times, and finally the dog was 
supposed to be killed by the kangaroo. After a short pause 
the dc^ ran along on all fours to where the Wiirtj'a sat and 
laid himself on top of the boy, then the old kangaroo hopped 
along and got on top of both of them, so that the Wiirtja had 
io bear the weight of the two men for about two minutes. 
When the performers got up, the Wurtja, still lying down, 
was told by the old men that the Quabara represented an 
incident which took place in the Alcheringa, when a wild dog- 
man attacked a kangaroo-man, and was killed by the latter. 
The article which the kangaroo wore on its head was 
a Waninga, which was a sacred object, and must never 
be mentioned in the hearing of women and children ; it 
belonged to the kangaroo totem, and was indeed the re- 
presentative of a kangaroo. When all had been explained 
to him, he was led back to his brake, and the men continued 
singing at intervals all night long. 

The Quabara, which are performed at these initiation cere- 
monies, vary according to the locality in which they are being 
performed, and the men who are taking the leading part in 
them. If, for example, the old man who is presiding belongs 
to the emu totem, then the Quabara will at all events to 
a certain, and probably a lai^e extent, deal with incidents 
concerned with ancestral emu men. In the particular cere- 
mony upon which this account is based, the old man 
presiding belonged to the kangaroo totem, and therefore 
Quabara belonging especially to this totem were much in 
evidence. The totem of the novice has no influence what- 
ever on the nature of the particular Quabara performed. 
Each old man who presides over, or takes the leading part 
in, a ceremony such as this has possession of a certain number 
of Quabara, and naturally those performed are chosen from 
this series as they are the ones which he has the right to 
perform. It is necessary also to remember that ceremonial 
objects, such as the Waninga, which figure largely in some 
districts, are unknown in others where their place is taken by 
entirely different objects. Thus, for example, in the northern 



part of the Arunta and in the Ilpiira tribe, a sacred pole called 
a Nurtunja is used, and in these parts this has precisely the 
significance of the Waninga, which is never met with in the 
northern districts, just as the Nurtunja is never met with in 
the south. 

On the fifth day, in the afternoon, another performance in 
which two kangaroos and one dog figured was given. The 
kangaroos wore, as before, small Waninga in their hair, and 
this time carried between their teeth, and also in their hair, 
bunches of wooden shavings soaked in blood, which were 
supposed to represent wounds received from the bites of the 
dc^s. The performance was essentially similar to that of the 
previous day, and the antics of the dog as he ran round and 
looked up, barking at the kangaroo or howled lustily as his 
head was bumped against the ground brought smiles to every 
face except that of the Wurtja. Finally the dog ran along 
and got on top of the Wurtja, and then the two kangaroos 
followed, so that this time the boy had three men on top 
of him. When all was over he was once more instructed, 
cautioned, and taken back to his brake. 

On the sixth day the Wurtja was taken out hunting by 
Okilia and Utnbima men, and the night was spent in singing 
with little intermission songs which referred to the wanderings 
of certain of the Alcheringa ancestors, to which the Wurtja, 
sitting quietly at the men's brake, listened. 

It must be remembered that it is now for the first time that 
the Wurtja hears anything of these traditions and sees the 
ceremonies performed, in which the ancestors of the tribe are 
represented as they were, and acting as they did during life. 
In various accounts of initiation ceremonies of the Australian 
tribes, as, for example, in the earliest one ever published — the 
one written by Collins in 1804 — we meet with descriptions of 
performances in which different animals are represented, but 
except in the case of the Arunta tribe, no indication of the 
meaning and signification of these performances has been 
forthcoming beyond the fact that they are associated with 
the totems. In the Arunta and Ilpirra tribes they are not 
only intimately associated with the totemic system, but have 
a very definite meaning. Whether they have a similar 

Q 2 



significance in other tribes we have as yet no definite 
evidence to show, but it is at all events worthy of note 
that whilst the actual initiation rite varies from tribe to 
tribe, consisting in some in the knocking out of teeth, and 
in others in circumcision, &c., in all, or nearly all, an im- 
portant part of the ceremony consists in showing to the 
novices certain dances, the important and common feature 
of which is that they represent the actions of special totemic 
animals. In the Arunta tribe, however, they have a very 
definite meaning. At the first glance it looks much as if 
aH that they were intended to represent were the be- 
haviour of certain animals, but in reality they have a much 
deeper meaning, for each performer represents an ancestral 
individual who lived in the.Alcheringa. He was a member 
of a group of individuals, all of whom, just like himself, were 
the direct descendants or transformations of the animals, the 
names of which they bore. It is as a reincarnation of the 
never-dying spirit part of one of these semi-animal ancestors 
that every memlser of the tribe is born, and, therefore, when 
born he, or she, bears of necessity the name of the animal or 
plant of which the Alcheringa ancestor was a transformation 
or descendant. 

The nature of these performances may be gathered from 
one which was performed on the next — the seventh day. As 
usual in all these ceremonies, the body of the performer was 
decorated with ochre, and lines of birds' down, which were 
supposed to be arranged in just the same way as they had 
been on the body of the Alcheringa man. From his waist 
was suspended a ball of fur string, which was supposed to 
represent the scrotum of the kangaroo, and when all was 
ready the performer came hopping leisurely out from behind 
the men's brake, where he had been decorated, lying down 
every now and then on his side to rest as a kangaroo does. 
The boy had, as usual, been brought blindfolded on to the 
ground, and at first was made to lie flat down. When the 
performer hopped out he was told to get up and watch. For 
about ten minutes the performer went through the characteris- 
tic movements of the animal, acting the part very cleverly, while 
the men sitting round the Wurl/a sang of the wanderings of 



the kangaroo m the Alcheringa, Then after a final and very 
leisurely hop round the Apulia ground the man came and 
lay down on top of the Wurlj'a, who was then instructed in 
the tradition to which the performance refers. He was told 
that in the Alcheringa a party of kangaroo men started from 
a place called Ultainta, away out to the east of what is now 
called Charlotte Waters, and that after wandering about they 
came to a spot called Karinga (in the Edith Range about thirty 
miles south-west of Alice Springs), where one of the party who 
was named Unburtcha died ; that is, his body died, but the 
spirit part of him was in a sacred Churinga, which he carried 
and did not die, but remained behind along with the Churinga 
when the party travelled on. This spirit, the old men told 
him, went, at a later time, into a woman, and was born again 
as a Purula man, whose name was, of course, Unburtcha, and 
who was a kangaroo man just as his ancestor was. He was 
told that the old men know all about these matters, and decide 
who has come to life again in the form of a man or woman. 
Sometimes the spirit child which goes into a woman Is 
associated with one of the sacred Churinga, numbers of which , 
every Alcheringa individual carried about with him or her 
(for in those days the women were allowed to carry them 
just as the men were), and then, in this case, the child 
has no definite name, but of course it belongs to the 
same totem as did the individual who had carried the 
Churinga about in the Alcheringa ; that is, if it were a kan- 
garoo man or woman, so of course must the child be, and 
then the old men determine what shall be its secret or 
sacred name. 

It is in this way that the boy during the initiation ceremonies 
is instructed, for the first time, in any of the sacred matters 
referring to the totems, and it is by means of the performances 
which are concerned with certain animals, or rather, apparently 
with the animals, but in reality with Alcheringa individuals 
who were the direct transformations of such animals, that the 
traditions dealing with this subject, which is of the greatest 
importance in the eyes of the natives, are firmly impressed 
upon the mind of the novice, to whom everything which 



he sees and hears is new and surrounded with an air of 

After the performance was over, the Wurtj'a was led back 
to his brake, and then a council was held for the purpose of 
selecting a man to perform the operation, and another man to 
act as assistant. Both these men are called Atwia atwia 
and in addition to them, another man was selected, whose 
duty it was to hold up the shield upon which the boy was 
seated during the operation, this man being known by the 
name of Eiuc/ia. The conversation was carried on in 
whispers, the men when speaking, placing their mouths 
close to each other's ears. While this consultation was in 
progress, the other men sitting close to the brake sang 
in fierce loud tones, the Lartna song — " Irriyulta yulta 
rat" &c. 

After discussing matters for some time, it was decided that 
an old man who was Mura to the boy, was to perform the 
ceremony, and that a man who was Gammona to the former, 
was to act as assistant, while another old man who was Ikuntera, 
that is possible father-in -I?iw, was to act as shield-bearer or 
Eluclia. It must be remembered that, in addition to the 
honour attaching to these offices, there are certain emolu- 
ments, for, when the operation is all over, the boy has to 
provide each of these men with an offering of food. As soon as 
this decision had been arrived at, the singing stopped, and the 
three Okilia went and sat in a line at the end of the ApitUa path, 
looking very grave, as if the business now to be performfd 
were of the deepest importance. Each one of them then got 
up in turn, and bringing one of the appointed officials, each 
of whom made a pretence of reluctance, placed him in front 
of the line occupied by himself and his brother Okilia, so that 
now there were two rows of men facing each other. The old 
Mura man sat in the middle of his row, and facing him was 
the eldest of the Okilia. The latter then smoothed with his 
hand the surface of the ground between the two lines, and 
then, picking up a spear-thrower by the end to which the 
point was attached, he thrust his beard into his mouth, as did 
also the Mura man, and for a short time both glared fiercely 



at one another. Then without taking his eyes off the Mura 
man, he scooped up with the chisel end of the weapon a little 
soil, and, gliding along on his knees, emptied it into the 
hands of the former. Then he embraced him, rubbed their 
bodies together, and finally rubbed his forehead against the 
stomach of the Mura man. When this was over, he repeated 
the whole performance with the two other officials, and then 
the three old men were embraced in turn by the other 
Okilia, who, however, did not present them with dirt. 

The meaning of the ceremony is simply, so they say, to 
imply that the youth is intrusted to them for the purpose of 
being initiated, with as little hesitation as the dirt is placed in 
their hands. 

This little ceremony is called Okoara, and was conducted 
with much solemnity. When it was over, the men who had 
taken part in it joined the others, and once more the Lartna 
song was sung with much fierceness. Singing was kept up 
all night long with only short intervals of rest. Early in the 
evening, the Witrtja was brought from his brake, and spent 
the night amongst the men, listening to, but taking no part in, 
the singing. 

The morning of the eighth day was spent in preparing for 
a ceremony concerned with the Illuta (a rat) totem. The 
particular rat-man or man-rat — for, as already said, the identity 
of the human individual is sunk in that of the object with 
which he is associated, and from which he is supposed to 
have originated — to whom this ceremony referred, is supposed 
to have travelled from a place called Pulkira, west of the 
Finke River to Walyirra, where he died, and where his spirit 
remained associated as usual with the Churinga. In con- 
nection with this ceremony a large Waninga was used, which 
wa.s made as follows. A long spear was taken, and close to 
each end a bar of wood about two feet in length was fixed at 
right angles to the length of the spear. Then strands of hair 
string were tied on so that they ran from cross bar to cross 
bar parallel to the central spear, and at each end the strands 
passed off, slantwise, to the latter. In some Waningas there 
may be three cross bars, in which case the top one is much 
smaller than the other two, and an extra series of strands of 



string pass from the outer part of the second cross bar to the 
top one, as shown in the figure (Fig. 39). The string is not 
all of one kind, but, in the one figured for example, the strands 
nearest to the central spear were of black human hair, then 
followed a band consisting of about eight strands of red-ochred 
opossum fur string, then a band of grey bandicoot fur string, 
and again, on the margin, another band of opossum fur. The 
whole Waninga had white birds' down sprinkled over it and 
made to adhere to the string, as usual, by means of human 
blood. This object is the most elaborate and certainly the 
most artistic of all those which are used in connection with 
the various ceremonies. 

In this particular ceremony the whole Waninga represented 
the body of a rat, the main part was supposed to be the trunk 
of the animal, the point end, the tail, and the handle end, the 
head, so that when in use the latter was carried downwards. 
The cross bars represented the limbs. The Waninga was 
carried by an Okilia while another man walked behind to 
steady it. Two other men were decorated to represent two 
Kutta kutta or little night hawks. When all was ready 
the Wnrtja was brought blindfolded as usual from his brake 
to the Apulia ground, where he remained with his head 
covered up until the performers had got into position in front 
of him. They approached from the south side, making a 
circuit and walking with their backs turned towards the 
Apulia until they got opposite to, and about thirty yards 
from, the Wurtj'a, when the bandage was at once taken from 
his eyes. The two little hawk men with legs wide apart 
and hands grasping the ends of a stick which was held across 
the shoulders, came along down the Apulia lines towards the 
audience, sliding and quiveringas theydidso. Then theyquickly 
returned, and were followed by the Waninga carriers who ran 
down the lines, stooping and bending the Waninga towards 
the Wurtja, but without touching him. Stopping every now 
and then, they stood erect and quivered or stood still. This 
was done several times, and then finally all four men came 
into the Apulia lines at the same time, the two little hawk men 
being at first in front ; the tatter then retired to the sides, and 
the Waninga carriers came on quivering. Then a man who 






was IkunUra to the boy stepped out, and taking the Waninga ' 
set it up in the Apulia path, and the Wiirlja was told by 
Oknia and Okilia men to go out and embrace it, which he 
did for some minutes, while the men who had carried it stood 
by, and the others, gathered tt^ether at the brake, sang of the 
Waninga, and of the wanderings of the rat men in the Alcher- 
inga. Once more the usual instructions and warnings were 
given to the Wurtj'a, and he was made to lie down with his 
head covered while another ceremony of a simple nature was 
prepared. The men around him occupied the time in singing 
about a party of Alcheringa individuals who started to walk 
from a place called Ayaiya. After the singing had gone on 
for about an hour, the Wurtja was told to look up, and, when 
he did so, he saw a number of men lying about the Apulia 
ground who at once began to hop about and to imitate * 
the sound made by kangaroos. One old man in particular 
was noticeable from the way in which he mimicked the move- 
ments of an old and disabled animal. After hopping in and 
about the Apulia ground for son^e minutes, they bunched up 
together at the western end of the ground and then suddenly, 
rising with a loud shout of " Pau pau pau" ran away to a 
small gully out of sight of the Wurtja, who was told that 
these represented a party of Alcheringa men starting oiT from 
Ayaiya. After this, and while further preparations were being 
made, the Wurtja remained with the audience, but had his 
head covered. The tradition deahng with this special group 
of kangaroos relates that the party split into two, a larger 
and a smaller one, and that the Ifirger one travelled on ahead 
of the smaller one. When preparing for the ceremony, the 
bodies were first of all rubbed over with red ochre, then two 
young men opened veins, first in one arm and then in the 
other, and allowed the blood to flow out in a stream over the 
heads and bodies of those who were about to take part in the 

I In the southern part a( the Arunta the Waninga is used in this w&y during the 
ceremony of fjirlna, but neither a IVaninga nor a Nurtunja is used at the ceremony 
of sub-incision ; in the central and western part of the Arunta a Waninga is used 
at ciTcumcision and a N»rtimja at sub-incision, and in the northern part of the 
Arunta and in the lipirra tribe neither of them is uae< 
NurtuHJa at sub-incision. 



ceremony. These men, who were ten in number, were then 
ornamented with little patches of down, but, unlike the usual 
plan of ornamentation, there was no regular pattern made, 
the reason for this being that the Alcheringa men had not 
used any regular pattern. 

Each man carried on his head, and also between his teeth, a 
small mass of wooden shavings saturated with blood. 

When all was ready they went, with the exception of three 
who stayed behind, on to the Apulia ground, walking in 

single file and carrying twigs of Eucalyptus in their hands. 
When they reached the ground a young man, who led the 
column and represented a young and frolicsome kangaroo 
which, according to tradition, accompanied the marchers, lay 
down sideways across the entrance to the path, with his back 
towards the Wurtja. The other men stood in the path with 



their legs wide apart, one behind the other, shifting their 
heads from side to side and making the twigs quiver. Then 
the IVttrija was told to sit up and the performers at once 
greeted his appearance with imitations of the sounds made by 
kangaroos ; then the young kangaroo called /Cu//a Kulla, 
began frisking about and pretending to rush at the other 
performers, and, finally, darted between the legs of each man 
and emerged at the western end of the column, where he lay 
down quietly a few minutes. After he had gone through this 
performance four times, he was caught up as he came through 
the legs of the man nearest to the Wurtj'a. The two front 
men then picked him up and carried him bodily, standing 
astride of him, and laid him on his back on top of the Wurtja, 
upon whom all of the performers then threw themselves, so 
that the unfortunate novice had actually to bear the weight 
of the whole mass of men. As a result of this the Wurtja 
himself did not appear to be any the worse for what must 
have been a somewhat trying experience, but one of the two 
men who had carried the Kulla Kulla fainted as sooh as the 
men extricated themselves. The stoical calmness of the 
Wurtja was most marked throughout the whole ceremony. 
After this first act in the performance, the men who had taken 
part in it seated themselves amongst the audience, and the 
remaining three men came on to the ground and went 
through the same performance, one of them personating a 
young kangaroo, who was carried up to and laid on the Wurtja, 
the other two men lying on the top of him. For this lying 
down on the top of the Wurtja there is a special term used — 
wultka-cfulpinta. After the usual explanations and cautions 
the Wurtja was led back to his brake. 

On the morning of the ninth day the Wurtja was carefully 
greased all over by the Okilia, who was especially in chaise 
of him, and he remained crouching or lying down at his brake 
until noon, when he was brought blindfolded to the ground. 
Then the kangaroo performance of the previous day was 
again enacted, the performance including the lying down upon 
the Wurtja. 

In addition, however, to the decorations of the previous 
day, four of the old men wore on their heads a half circle 



made of grass stalks, bound round with fur string and de- 
corated with white down called Atnula. Each of these 
represented a dead kangaroo, which was carried on the head 
by the Alcheringa kangaroo ancestor as he marched across 
the country. In connection with this myth it is of interest to 
note that at the present day when a kangaroo or wallaby is 
kilted the limbs are always dislocated at the joints, which 
makes them hang more limply and so renders them more 
easy to carry. In this condition the body is spoken of as 
Atnuta and the act of dislocating is called nllakakulla. 
After the performance the Atnuta were taken off the heads 
and handed round, while each man squatting on the ground 
kept the object pressed round his stomach for a few minutes, 
the Wtirtja doing this also. 

After this two more kangaroo ceremonies were performed, 
the second of which was of some importance. The principal 
performer carried a Waninga, which was really a double one, 
the top part representing a separate small one attached to the 
lai^e one. The lai^e Waninga represented an old man 
kangaroo and the small one his son. Two men, as usual, 
carried the Waninga, the front one supporting it on his back 
while the other man helped to keep it upright as they 
advanced and retreated along the Apulia path, stopping every 
now and then to quiver and to bend the Waninga over to- 
wards the Wurtja. The Ikuntera man then stood up, and 
taking the Waninga from the performers, fixed it upright in 
the path, and the boy was once more told to go up and 
embrace it. The showing of the Waninga to the Wurtja is 
called amba-keli-irrima, which means the child sees and 
knows. The embracing of the Waninga is called eliaqua 
erkuma. After the performance the Wurtja was once more 
instructed and cautioned not to reveal anything to women 
and children, and then made to lie down, while in loud fierce 
tones the men sang the iur/Mu song, " irri yulta yulta rai" &c., 
striking the ground with their shields as they did so. Then 
the Wurtja was taken back to his brake, whfire he remained 
till about nine o'clock at night, when he was brought to the 
Apulia, and there his head was decorated with stalks of cane 
grass, while at the same time the other men decorated them- 



selves in the same way, inserting, in addition, stalks beneath 
their arm bands. 

When this had been done the brake of boughs at which the 
men assembled was built higher and the men all crouched 
behind it. Then, at a signal from the old Oknia, the women 
once more approached from the main camp, shouting as they 
did so, "pai ! pai ! pai ! " and took possession of the Apulia 
ground upon which they danced for some minutes. Then 
they went and stood on one side, which was the signal for the 
men to come out and stand on the Apulia. Then once more 
the women came up and Joined the men, while the latter 
danced round, and the women, shouting " pai! pai! pail" 
plucked the grass stalks from their heads. The men all 
danced with their faces turned towards the east as in the 
stripping dance at a later time, one or more women stand- 
ing behind each man. Then the Mura woman, who had 
previously given the fire-stick to the novice, after having 
stripped the Wurtja as he danced along with the other 
men, suddenly stopped, and, placing her head through his 
legs from behind, hoisted him on to her shoulders, and 
ran off with him followed by all the other women to a 
spot behind, and in a line with, the Apulia, from which it 
was distant about iifty yards. Here she placed him sitting 
on the ground, she herself sitting behind, clasping him in 
her arms, while some Mia and Uwinna women sat close 
behind her. The rest of the women continued to dance in 
front of the Wurtja shouting "pai ! pai ! pai ! " and making a 
movement of invitation by slightly lifting the hands up and 
down with the arms bent at the elbows, while moving the 
fingers as if to beckon the Wurtja to them. This character- 
istic movement is adopted by the women during the course of 
various ceremonies, and is always associated with the idea of 
inviting the men to come to them. 

At the Apulia the men sat down and sang the fire song : — - 
" Alnylinga eliinja ]tla althara wunlama," 

over and over again. Atnylinga is the red flower of a species 
of Eremophila, which, in the Alcheringa, was made red by 
much burning ; etunja is a twig of Eucalyptus ; althara means 



blazing up ; and ilia wuntama is the term applied to a Are 
which is rushing along, like one which has been lit on a windy 
day amongst the porcupine-grass on the sand hills. This 
special song is always sung on the night preceding the pre- 
paration of the Arackitta poles, the twigs used for swathing 
which are always put through a blazing fire. 

The singing continued for about half an hour, after which 
the Urinthantima man, as well as another Mura man and the 
Okilia in charge of the novice, ran towards the women hold- 
ing shields before their faces. The first-named seized the 
Wurtja, and, assisted by the other two, took him back to the 
Apulia, where he was told to lie down and his face was 
covered while the singing of the fire-song continued at inter\als 
all night long. As soon as the Wurtja was taken from them 
the women ran away to the main camp. 

At daybreak the Urinthantima man rubbed the Wurtja all 
over with dry red ochre and then wound fur string round his 
head, so as to completely hide his hair from sight, while the 
other men sang — 

" FuTta puTta aiipinta airpintina," 

the song sung while preparing the Arackitta poles. Puria is 
to arrange the leaves, to settle them in their right places ; 
airpinta airpintina means round and round again. While 
this was being done the women came up to the Apulia and 
danced between the lines, backwards and forwards, in front of 
the Wurtja, making with their hands the movement of invita- 
tion and shouting "pai! pai! pai!" Suddenly the Urin- 
thantima man hoisted the Wvrtja up on to his shoulders and 
ran off with him followed by a number of the younger men, 
upon which the women at once ran back to their camp and 
the singing ceased. When out of sight of the Apulia the 
Wurtja was put down and the men proceeded to a spot about 
half a mile distant, where they made big fires and cut down 
a number of slender saplings which were to be used for 
Arackitta poles. The branches were then scorched in the 
flames while the men sang the fire-song " Atnylinga etunja" 
Sec When sufficient material was prepared they sat down 
and began to tie twigs on to the poles, the Wurtja assisting 



by breaking off twigs and handing them around ; but he did 
not prepare a pole himself, and during the proceedings was 
never once spoken to. While at work the men sang "purta 
purta airpinta airpintina" and it was afternoon before the 
poles, about thirty in number and each about ten feet in 
length, were ready. Then a start was made for the Apulia 
ground, the poles being carried to a spot about two hundred 
yards from the Apulia, where they were stacked. Here, 
assisted by the boy's Okilia, the Urinthantima man tied twigs 
of Eremophila on to the Wurljiis body and head and then 
signalled to the men at the Apulia that they were ready, 
whereupon they moved away from the ground and shouted 
to the women who were waiting at some little distance out of 
sight. The women at once ran up and took possession of the 
Apulia, carrying shields and shouting "^ pat! pat! pai .'" On 
the ground they stood with their backs to the men's brake 
and their faces towards the west, from which direction the 
Wurtja's party was coming. As the latter approached the 
women began dancing up and down the lines, making the 
movement of invitation and all the time holding their shields 
against their breasts. The party, led by the Urinthantima 
man, approached at a run, with the iVurtj'a concealed in the 
centre. Each man carried several pieces of bark which, as 
they came close at hand, were thrown at the women while 
the men shouted loudly " w/tirra," and the women shielded 
their faces. At close quarters a final volley of pieces of bark 
was the signal to the women to go, which they did, running 
away pell mell, their pace accelerated by the vehement shout- 
ing of the men who were standing about in all directions 
away from the Apulia, to which they returned as soon as the 
women had gone. The bushes were taken off the Wurtja by 
the Urinthantima and Okilia, and he was told to remain in 
a crouching position. 

The Apulia ground was now carefully cleaned, and the 
Wurtja's brake removed to within a few yards of the western 
end of the path, after which a council, in which Oknia, 
Okilia and Gammona took part, was held, the object being to 
appoint another official known as Wulya, whose duty was 
that of painting a design on the back of the Wurlj'a. The 



choice of the design is left entirely to the IVufya, but it must 
be one of the Ilkinia, that is, the series of designs emblematic 
of the totems, and he is expected also to choose one belong- 
ing to a totem group of his own locality. During this con- 
ference two Okilia had been sitting opposite to one another, 
and as soon as the choice had been made, one of them 
smoothed over the ground between them, and then the other, 
who in this instance belonged to the same locality as the 
Wurtja, crossed over and sat down between the legs of the 
first man. Then a man, Gammona to, and of the same 
locality as the Wurtja, stepped out and brought back the old 
man who was Ifimunna to the Wurtja, and upon whom the 
choice had fallen. He came with well-simulated reluctance, 
as if he felt himself overpowered with the honour thus 
conferred upon him, and sat down in front of the two Okilia 
in the space vacated by the man who had crossed over. 
When he was seated, the front one of the two Okilia took up 
a boomerang, and with much deliberation drew the flat side 
three times steadily along the ground, thus making a smooth 
little trench, out of which he scooped a little soil, and then, 
shuffling along on his knees, emptied it into the hands of the 
Ipmunna man. Then he embraced him and rubbed his head 
against the old man's stomach. Then the other Okilia, the 
Gammona and the Oknia, in the order named, embraced the 
old man. The latter belonged to a northern locality, and in 
choosing him a well-recognised compliment had been paid 
both to himself and to his local group, as the Wurtja belonged 
to a southern group of the tribe. A somewhat unusual occur- 
rence now took place. The old Atwia atwia man, who had 
been appointed to perform the actual operation of circumcision, 
came up and held a whispered conversation with the newly 
appointed Wulya, the gist of which was that he was an old 
man, that his eyesight was failing, and that he desired the 
consent of the council who determined these matters to 
depute his duties to his son. This necessitated a long whis- 
pered consultation, not that there was any serious objection 
to the proposal ; indeed the old man is regarded as so great a 
man in the tribe, being recognised as an oknirabata, that 
no one would dream of opposing his wish in a matter such as 



this, but simply because anything like hasty action, in connec- 
tion with an affair of mysterious import like one of the 
initiation ceremonies, would be completely out of keeping 
with the feelings of the natives. It was decided to grant the 
request, and the son was then called up, and after another 
whispered conversation the council broke up. When this was 
over, all the men began to decorate themselves with various 
patterns, which had no special significance ; the two Atwta 
ativia were prominently painted on the face, and their cheeks 
were blackened with charcoal, so that they were easily 
distinguishable from the others. The Wurtj'a remained 
crouching at his brake for some little time, after which the 
newly appointed Wulya, together with the two men of the 
same name who had done the first painting, came up to him 
and began to paint on his back a design of the Okranina 
or carpet snake totem of a place called Tharlinga, away to 
the north in the Hanns range, that is, in the locality of the 
man who did the painting, but it must be remembered 
that there was no obligation upon the man to paint a design 
of either his own or the boy's totem. As a matter of fact, the 
totem of the Wurtja was a grass seed and that of the painter 
a crow. The design, which occupied the greater part of the 
boy's back, was done in white pipe-clay, and before com- 
mencing to draw it, the newly appointed Wulya rubbed the 
boy over with grease while he explained to his two com- 
panions the nature of the design which he intended to paint. 
All three men took part in the drawing, which consisted of a 
few concentric circles in the centre, with corkscrew-like lines 
around. The circles represented the snake's hole in the 
ground, and the other lines were supposed to be snakes play- 
ing round the hole. While the painting proceeded, and it 
was done with great deliberation, occupying more than an 
hour, the old Ipmunna man sang in a low monotonous voice 
about the snakes of Tharlinga. When at length it was 
finished an Okilia of the Wtirtja's locality came up and placed 
in his hair two bunches of owl feathers, and then, going 
away again, he brought the two Ahvia atwia to inspect the 

At tiiis stage the men who had previously made the 



Arachitta poles ran away from the Apulia, shouting, "/*«('/ 
pai.' pat!" and brought the poles back with them from 
where they had been deposited. When within about fifty 
yards of the Wurtja they separated into two parties, one 
crossed in front of him from left to right, and the other from 
right to left, and the poles were deposited about twenty yards 
to either side of him ; what was the meaning of this cannot 
be said, the native explanation as usual being that it was thus 
done in the Alcheringa, Possibly it may be associated in 
some way with the division of the tribe into two moieties, but 
there was no evidence of this so far as the actual constitution 
of the two parties was concerned, that is, members of one 
moiety did not go to one side and members of the other to 
the other. 

Just before dusk two Okilias went out and stood, one on 
the eastern end of each of the raised banks, with their arms in 
a somewhat curious attitude, the palm of the hand being 
turned so that it faced backwards and the elbow bent, so that 
the hand lay in the arm-pit. The Urinthantima man went 
and sat down in the place usually occupied by the Wurija 
when he was watching a ceremony, while the other men 
seated around him sang, " Elunja apirra arara "— " Hark to the 
lizards in the tree." At a signal from an old Mura man, the 
women, who were waiting out of sight, came and stood in two 
groups, one to the left and one to the right of the Apilla. It 
may be mentioned that here again the separation had no 
reference to the classes, though there are certain occasions 
during some of the ceremonies connected with initiation when 
this separation does take place. As ■ soon as the women 
arrived the two Okilias came down from the bank, ran to the 
Wurtfa's brake and quickly tore down the bushes which hid 
him from view, so that he was seen crouching dowru The 
Okilias then knelt down, one on either side of him, and 
the three at once ran quickly, on all fours, to the Apulia, 
where the Wurija lay down on top of the Urinthantima, who 
was himself lying down on his back. In this position the two 
remained for about ten minutes. While this was taking place 
a woman who was Mia to the Wurtja came and sat down 
behind one of the Oknia, while two others sat behind .two 



other Oknia. At the same time the men who had brought in 
the Arachitta poles, and were about to wear them attached 
to their legs, were busily engaged, with the assistance of other 
men and some of the women, in fastening them on. At the 
end of the ten minutes the Urinthdntima man wriggled out 
from underneath the boy, who remained lying face down- 
wards on the ground. The old Ipmunna stood close by, 
explaining the design on the back of the Wurtja, and after a 
time called up two old women, who, Uke himself, were 
Ipmunna^ to the boy, to come up and rub out the design. 
They came forwards with apparent reluctance, though in 
reality highly honoured by being thus chosen, and, stooping 
down, effaced the drawing by rubbing it over with their 

The men with the Arackitta poles were now ready to 
come on to the Apulia, and there, with the poles attached to 
their ankles, they ran up and down between the banks, 
dancing and singing, while the women, shouting, followed 
them all about, stripping the leaves as they did so from off 
the poles. It was now dark, but piling the two brakes, which 
had served their purpose and would not be used again, on top 
of one another, the whole mass was set on fire,* and the flames 
lighted up a scene of the weirdest description possible, on 
which the Wurtja looked in silence apparently quite unmoved. 
Suddenly the old Mura man gave out a great roar, the 
dancing ceased, and, followed by menacing shouts from the 
men, the women made haste back to their own camp, while 
from all sides the sound of bull-roarers was heard. At this 
signal the Wurtja was laid down on his back, and some of the 
Oknia and Okilta men, taking up a number of the Arachitta 
poles, stacked them on top of him, lifting them up and down 
as if beating time with them on his body, while they all sang 
wildly : — 

*' tngw& alkima alkiini li 
Unnanthi alkirli impara." 

' The Ipmunna men and women belong lo the sub-class into which the novice's 
children will pass. 

' Roth describes the brake of boughs used duiing the ceremony, and coiled 
errulli, as being burnt at the close or the proceedings, Im. cit., p. 171. 



Ingwa means night or darkness ; ai&ima, twilight ; alkimi H, 
a great clear light ; urtnanthi, a lot of trees growing close 
together ; alkirli, like the sky ; impara^ rising red like the sun. 


All was now excitement ; the fire was giving out a brilliant 
light, and the two Atwia atwia men took up a position at the 
western end of the Apulia path. With their beards thrust 
into their mouths, their legs widely extended and their arms 



Stretched forwards, the two men stood perfectly still, the 
actual operator in front and his assistant pressing close up 
behind him, so that their bodies were in contact with each 
other. The front man held in his extended right hand the 
small flint knife with which the operation was to be conducted, 
and, as soon as they were in position, the Ikuntera man, who 
was to act as shield bearer, came down the lines, carrying the 
shield on his head and at the same time snapping the thumb 
and first finger of each hand. Then, facing the fire, he knelt 
down on one knee just a little in front of the operator, holding 
his shield above his head. During the whole time the bull- 
roarers were sounding all round so loudly that they could 
easily be heard by the women and children in their camp, 
and by them it is supposed that the roaring is the voice 
of the great spirit Twanyirika, who has come to take the boy 

The Arachiita poles were then quickly removed from the 
top of the Wurtja, and he was at once lifted up by Okilia 
and Oknia men, who ran, carrying him feet foremost, and 
placed him on the shield. Then in deep, loud tones XYi^Lartna 
song was sung, indeed almost thundered out, by the men : — 
*' Irri yulta. yulta rai 

Ul katchera ul kalch ar-arai 

Irii yulla yulla lai 

U[ katchera ul kalch at." 

The assisting Atwia atwia at once grasped the foreskin, 
pulled it out as far as possible and the operator cut it off, and 

' The sound of Ihe buU'ioarer is believed by the women to be the voice of the 
spirit TBuatyirika, who has taken the boy away from them into the bush. This 
spirit, they are told, lives in wild and iimccessibie regions, and only comes out 
when a youth is initiated. He enters the body of the boy after tlie operation and 
takes him away into the bush until he is belter, when the spirit goes away and the 
boy returns, but now as an initiated man. Both uninitiated youths and women 
are taught to believe in the existence of Tivanyirika. This belief is fundamentally 
the same as that found in all Australian tribes. Amongst the Kumai, for example, 
as related by Mr. Howitt, the sound of the bull-roarei is the voice of Tundun, who 
himself comes down to make the boys into men. Amongst certain other trities of 
(he south-east coast Daramulun's voice is heard when the bull-roarer sounds, and 
he it is who initiates the youths by knocking out a tooth. In many tribes, such 
as the Kuinai, two bull-roarers, as described by Mr. Howitt, are sounded, a larger 
tuid a smaller one, the latter representing Ttindtin's wife, but amongst the Arunttt, 
Ilinta and Luritcha there is only one, and that represents the male spirit. 





immediately, along with all the men who had acted in any 
official capacity during the whole course of the proceedings, 
retired out of the lighted area, while the boy, in a more or less 
dazed condition, was supported by his Oknia and OkUia, who 
said to him, " You have done well, you have not cried out." 
Then he was led back to where the old brake had stood and 
received the congratulations of the men, and at the same time 
the blood from the wound was allowed to flow into a shield, 
which was given to him by a young Oknia, to whom after- 
wards he will have, in return, to present an offering of food. 

While he was still bleeding an Okilia brought up some of 
the bull-roarers and, pressing them on the wound, told him that 
it was these and not Twanyirika which made the sound, that 
they were sacred Churinga and must never be shown or even 
mentioned to the women. To this the boy listened in silence. 
After a time, when the bleeding had diminished, he was led 
to the eastern end of the Apulia, where he stood between two 
Okilia looking towards the west, while two other Okilia, each 
taking an Arachitta pole, mounted the bank and holding 
their poles over the path shouted loudly, moving them up and 
down as iheydid %o,"^ Arara,arara,araral' \\\C\<^ is the signal 
for the officials, who had been standing on one side in the 
shade, to come on to the Apulia ground once more. This 
they did, one at a time, in the following order, though there did 
not appear to be any rule with regard to precedence, as one man 
would urge another to go up r — Wulya, who superintended the 
first painting ; Urinthantima ; Wulya, Wulya, these two had 
assisted at the first painting ; At-wia atwia, the actual operator ; 
/!/a'/<z<7/a'/(T,the assistant; I^K/c<j,ofthefinal painting; Wulya, 
the assistant of the last man ; Eluclia. As each man came 
up the 6*^rf(« shouted, "This is Wulya (and so on through 
the list), do not mention his name," and then each of them 
embraced the boy in turn, pressing their bodies together.' As 
each man came up and the presentation was made, the same 
ceremony was gone through, and in turn every one of those 
who had taken any special part was named by the Oi/Ztii, whose 

' After this the novice musl use ih> 
individuals, though he may not speali [o 
shall have made him nn uHcring of looA. 



cry, "Arara, arara, arara," rang out sharply in the darkness, 
for the fire had now burnt down. When the presentations 
were over the oldest Okilia produced a bundle of Churinga 
(wooden ones for stone ones are never used on this occasion), 
saying as he did so, " Here is Twanyirika, of which you have 
heard so much, they are Churinga, and will help to heal you 
quickly ; guard them well and do not "lose them, or you and 
your Mia, Ungaraitcha and Quitia (that is, blood and tribal 
mothers and sisters) will be killed ; do not let them out of 
your sight, do not let your Mia, Ungaraitcha and Quitta see 
you, obey your Okilia, who will go with you, do not eat 
forbidden food." These commands were spoken sternly, as if 
to impress them forcibly upon the novice, who stood silent 
with bent head. 

In the particular ceremony here described, as soon as these 
instructions had been given, a man who had been dispatched 
for the purpose brought on to the ground two young Ara- 
kurta who had been operated upon five or six weeks before. 
Acting on instructions from their guardian, they at once 
knelt down in front of and with their backs to the newly-made 
Arakurta, and he, being told what to do by his Okilia, took 
a Churinga from his bundle, and, holding it in both hands, 
scraped their backs with the sacred implement. This is 
called Untungalirrima, and places all three Arakurta on 
equal terms and makes them friends. The two kneeling 
Arakurta were then told to go away quickly to their own 
camp, which they did. This does not, of course, frequently 
take place, but only when two operations have followed closely 
on one another. 

For some time the boy, who has now reached the stage of 
Arakurta, the term Wurtj'a applying to him only during the 
relatively short interval between the time when he is painted 
and that at which the operation of circumcision is performed, 
remained standing over a fire, the smoke from which is sup- 
posed to be efficacious in healing his wounds. Finally he was 
taken away by a single Okilia man, in whose charge he was 
to remain until his wounds were healed and the operation of 
Ariltha was performed. On this occasion he joined the other 
two Arakurta in their camp. 



Whilst there is no fixed rule on the subject, the man who 
takes chaise of the Arakurta is preferably one to whom the 
boy's sister has been promised, failing such an one he may be 
an Oknia, Okilia or a Mura man. 

There are certain restrictions and customs which must be 
observed by the more immediate relations of the boy which 
may be here noticed, as they will serve to show still more 
clearly the importance attached to the initiation ceremonies 
in the eyes of the natives. From the time at which the boy 
receives the fire-stick brought by his Mia, until his complete 
recovery from flie operation of sub-incision, the Mia must 
have no intercourse with the father of the boy. Any breach 
of this rule would result in the boy growing up into Ertwa 
akurna, a bad man, or Atna-arpinta, that is, too much given 
to sexual pleasures, while strict observance will ensure his 
growing up Ertwa mura, or a good man (using the terms 
good and bad in the native sense). 

After the presentation of the fire-stick and xxnxW Lartna has 
been performed, the Mura tualcha woman (that is, the future 
mother-in-law of the boy) is tabu to the actual Mia, or, 
if she be dead, to the Mia who hands to her the fire- 
stick. When Lartna has been performed, the Mura tualcka 
woman goes to the camp of the Mia, and, approaching her 
from behind, rubs her all over with red ochre ; then the Mia 
hands to her a pitchi full of seed, and in this way the tabu is 

While the A rakurta is out in the bush the Mia may not eat 
opossum, or the large lace lizard, or carpet snake, or any fat, 
as otherwise she would retard her son's recovery. Every day 
she greases her digging-sticks and never allows them out 
of her sight ; at night time she sleeps with them close to her 
head. No one is allowed to touch them. Every day also she 
rubs her body all over with grease, as in some way this is 
supposed to help her son's recovery. 

After the operation of Lartna, the foreskin, amongst the 
Finke River groups of natives, is handed over to the eldest 
Okilia of the boy who is present, and he also takes chat^e of 
the shield in the haft of which the blood from the wound was 
collected. The piece of skin he greases and then gives to a 



boy who is the younger brother of the Arakurta, and tells 
him to swallow it, the idea at the present day being that it 
will strengthen him and cause him to'grow tall and strong. 
The shield is taken by the Okitia to his camp, where he hands 
it over to his Unawa, or wife, and she then rubs the blood 
over the breasts and foreheads of women who are Mia 
alkulla, that is, elder sisters of the boy's actual Mia and 
Ungaraitclia, or elder sisters of the boy. 

These women must not on any account touch the blood 
themselves, and after rubbing it on, the woman adds a coat of 
red ochre. The actual Mia is never allowed to see the blood. 

Amongst some groups of Western Arunta the foreskin is 
presented to a sister of the Arakurta, who dries it up, smears 
it with red ochre, and wears it suspended from her neck. 

The Ceremony of Head Biting. 
While 'A\£ Arakurta is out in the bush the men go and visit 
him occasionally, and on these occasions he has to undergo a 
painful rite called Koperta kakuma, or head biting. He is 
placed, lying face downwards, while men of all classes sit round, 
singing about the biting of the head of the Arakurta and 
urging the biters to bite deeply. The men who are to do the 
biting and who may be of any class and are usually from two 
to five in number, are chosen, on each occasion on which the 
operation is performed, by the oldest Okilia of the Arakurta. 
Their duty is to bite the scalp as hard as they can, until blood 
flows freely, the patient often howling with pain. Each man 
may content himself with one bite or he may bite two or even 
three times. The object of this really painful operation is, so 
they say, to make the hair grow strongly, and at times the 
chin may be bitten as well as the scalp. 

The Ceremony of Sub-incision or Ariltha. 
As a general rule there is an interval of about five or six 
weeks between the ceremony of Lartna and that of Ariltha, 
but at times it may be even longer, and it depends simply 
upon the length of time occupied by the recovery of the boy 
from the efTects of the first operation. 



The operation of Ariltka is regarded as of at least equal 
importance with that of circumcision, and, unlike the latter, 
the women are completely excluded and not allowed to take 
any part. 

The particular ceremony now to be described took place 
when the operation was performed upon the two Arakurta to 
whom reference was made in the account of the Larttta 
ceremony. One of them belonged to the Purula and the 
other to the Kumura class. As a general rule the operation 
is only performed on one Arakurta at a time, but this is a 
matter of no importance and simply depends upon whether 
or not more than one boy has recently undergone the earlier 
ceremony of Lartna and is ready for this second one. We 
have never heard of the operation being performed upon more 
than two at the same time and even this is not of very 
common occurrence. 

When the ceremony was to take place the men assembled 
at the camp of the Arakurta^oyxt in the bush, where they had 
been living away from every one else since the last operation 
had been- performed on them. They were under the charge 
of an Okilia, and when the men had assembled the two 
Arakurta, who were not informed of what was about to 
happen, though very probably they were perfectly well aware, 
when all the men assembled, that something further was in 
store for them, were told to lie flat down on the ground. 
Then their heads were covered over and all the young men of 
the same two sub-classes as the Arakurta were made to lie 
down beside them, though they had of course all of them 
passed through the ceremony before, as none but initiated men 
are allowed to be present on an occasion such as this. The 
older Kumara and Purula and all the Bulthara and Panunga 
men gathered together and for hours sang of the Achilpa 
men belonging to the group which marched north by way of 
Henbury on the Finke River. During the night there was 
performed first a Quabara belonging to the Achilpa (wild cat) 
totem, and at the close of the performance the two Arakurta 
joined in the dance round the performers. When it was over 
they were told who the individuals were with whom the 
Quabara was concerned, they were also told that they must 



not speak of it to women and children, and then it was 
explained to them that certain Quabara belonged to particular 
groups of men who alone had the right to perform them. 
Later on during the night another Quabara was performed, 
this time concerned with the emu totem. Then once more 
they were made to lie down, while the old men went away to 
a brake of boughs which had been built at a distance of about 
fifty yards from the spot at which the boys lay down under 
the charge of their guardian. The rest of the night was spent in 
singing over and over again a short chant concerning the 
bandicoot totem and the Nurtunja. The reason for this 
was that the Oknia and Okilia of the two Arakurta, who 
formed ^ain a kind of council to direct the proceedings, had 
requested an old bandicoot man to perform a sacred ceremony 
in which a Nurtunja was used, as it was essential in this part 
of the tribe to have one of these in connection with the 
ceremony of A ri/t/ia. The old bandicoot man was a Panunga 
and belonged to the Ilpirra tribe away to the north of the 
Arunta. The Nurtunja, to which we shall have occasion to refer 
frequently, figures largely in many of the sacred oeremonies 
and varies very much in form. The one used in the present 
instance was made out of a long spear around which grass 
stalks were laid and the whole was then ensheathed with 
human hair string. It was then ornamented with alternate 
rings of red and white bird's down, while a large tuft of eagle- 
hawk feathers was fixed into the upper end. Very often on 
these occasions, but not on the particular one now dealt with, 
a few Churinga are hung on to the Nurtunja. Two men, one 
of them Oknia of the Purula boy and the other Okilia of the 
Kumara, were decorated by the old bandicoot man to perform 
the ceremony, and just at daybreak the Arakurta were led 
from their camp and the performance began. The Quabara 
was concerned with an Alcheringa man who lived at a place 
called Yerapinthinga and the man who personated him 
carried the Nurtunja on his back, while he moved backwards 
and forwards, towards and away from another man who 
personated an Alcheringa woman, whom the bandicoot man 
was.supposed to be attempting to catch and who warded him 
off with bushes held in the hand. After a short time the 



audience, including the two Arakurta,rAn in and danced in 
front of and under the Nurtunja which was bent over them by 
the performer, while the dancers held up their hands as if to 
catch it, shouting loudly all the time " Wait ! Wah!" After 
this had gone on for some time, the man personating the 
n suddenly jumped round on the ground where he had 


remained seated all the time and turned his back on the 
Nurtunja, which was the sign for the dancing to cease. The 
Nurtunja was taken off" the performer's back by the old bandi- 
coot man to whom it belonged and then, after scooping out 
a hole in the ground, he fixed it upright As soon as this 
was done the two Arakurta were told by Oknia and Okilia 
men to go up to and embrace the Nurtunja, and while they 



were doing this they were told that they were about to 
undergo the rite of Ariltka and that the embracing of the 
Nurtunj'a, which lasted ten minutes, would prevent the 
operation from being painful and that they need not be 

The oldest Okilia man now said " Who will be Tapunga ? " 
Two men volunteered, one man a Panunga and the other a 
Purula. The former at once lay on his stomach on the 


ground and the latter on the top of him, and when this kind of 
living table was ready the Kumara Arakurta was led from 
the Nurtunj'a, close to which the men had Iain down, and 
then placed lying at full length on his back on top of the 
Tapunga. As soon as ever he was in position another man 
sat astride of his body, grasped the penis and put the urethra 
on the stretch. The operator who is called Pininga and is 
chosen by the Oknia and Okilia, then approached and 



quickly, with a stone knife, laid open the urethra from below. 
The man was an Ikuntera of the Arakurta. As soon as this 
was done, the boy was lifted off and immediately the Purula 
Arakurta was placed in position on the same Tapunga and 
the same man again performed this operation. When all was 
over, the two, who had now passed beyond the Arakurta 
stage and were Ertwa-kurka or initiated men, were led to one 
side while they squatted over shields into which the blood was 
allowed to drain. After this, Okilia men came up to them 
and tied the public tassels on, telling them that they were now 
Ertwa-kurka and that they had no more operations to fear 
and that they were admitted to the ranks of the men. 

After the operation of Ariltha has been performed, the 
newly made Ertwa-kurka sits down as described on a shield 
into the haft of which the blood isallowed to flow and from 
which it is emptied into the centre of a fire which is made for 
the purpose. If much pain be caused by the wound he will 
return to the ash heap and scooping out a little hole in the 
centre, will place therein some glowing pieces of charcoal and 
upon these he will urinate, thus causing steam to arise which 
is said to give great relief to the pain. Until the young 
man's wound has healed he is supposed to lie only upon his 
back for otherwise the organ would grow crooked.' 

Until the Arakurta has undergone and quite recovered 
from the ceremony of sub-incision, he is forbidden to eat 
the flesh of opossum, snake, echidna and all lizards. 
Should he eat any of these his recovery would be retarded 
and his wounds would become much inflamed. In addition 
to these there exists in the case of each individual the 
restriction with regard to the eating of his totem, and to every 
one not only at this, but at all times, there exists the general 
restriction with regard to the eating of the wild cat 

At the moment when the Arakurta is seized for the 
purpose of having the rite of Ariltka performed upon him the 
men set up a loud shout of " Pirr-rr" — loud enough to be 

' As a result of the operation of Arillka-kuma, micturition is always, in the 
native state, performed in a squatting posilion, and it is a very characteristic 
action for a little hollow to be scooped out with the hand in the soil, and then 
into this micturition takes place. 



heard by the women in their camp. The latter at once assemble 
at the Erlukwirra, that is the women's camp, and the Mia of the 
boy cuts the Undtalkulkna woman across the stomach and 
shoulders, and then makes similar cuts upon women who are 
the boy's Mura and elder and younger sisters, as well as upon 
those who are her own elder sisters. While making the cuts she 
imitates the sound made by the ArUtlta party. These cuts, 
which generally leave behind them a definite series.of cicatrices, 
are called urpma and are often represented by definite lines 
on the Churinga, It very often happens that, as soon as the 
operation has been performed on an Arakurta, one or more 
of the younger men present, who have been operated on 
before, stand up and voluntarily undergo a second operation. 
In such cases the men do not consider that the incision has 
been carried far enough. Standing out on the clear space close 
by the Nurtunja, with legs wide apart and hands behind his 
back, the man shouts out ^^ Mura Ariltha atnartinja yinga 
arilckika pitchi" \ — '^ Mura mine come and cut my Ariltka 
down to the root." Then one Mura man comes and pinions 
him from behind, while another comes up in front and seizing 
the penis first of all cuts out an oval shaped piece of 
skin which he throws away and then extends the slit to the 
root. Most men at some time or other undei^o the second 
operation and some come forward a third time, though a man 
is often as old as thirty or thirty-five before he submits to 
this second operation which is called ariltka erlitha atnartinja. 
The Ertwa-kurka carry the Churinga about with them just 
as the Arakurta did until they have completely recovered. 
When the man in chaise of them announces that they are 
recovered from the efTects of the operation, the men all 
assemble out in the bush, and the Oknia and Okilia appoint a 
man to act as what is called Irkoa-artha. It is his duty to 
remove all the decorations from the body of the Ertwa-kurka, 
after which the latter is told to lie down on his face while the 
men sing a chant, which is supposed to have the effect of 
promoting the growth of his hair, and he is told that he must 
not speak for some time to the Irkoa-artha and then not 
until he has made a present of food, which is called 
Chauriliat to the individual in question. 



Then the men, accompanied by the Ertwa-kurka, assemble 
at some little distance from the main camp and begin to sing 
in loud tones : 

" Chuk-ur-rokemi yoa U chaskaa-a 
Yaama. kank vox 
Inkwurkna inkwurkna auui 
Inkwurkna inkwurkna aInaJ." 

The women, hearing the singing, assemble near to the main 
camp and begin to dance as they did at the Apulia. The 
song of the men ceases as soon as they approach the women, 
and at a distance of about fifty yards they halt and shout 
" tirra, tirra, tirra" a sound which much resembles that made 
by whirling bull-roarers and which is at once taken up by the 
women. The young Ertwa-kurka, who is now completely 
undecorated, steps out from the group of men, runs up close 
to the women, who continue dancing, and then suddenly 
wheels round and runs off into the bush, where he is followed 
by a number of the men who camp with him for the night, 
during which, without the performance of any special cere- 
mony, singing is kept up until daybreak. Before it is light 
the Ertwa-kurka is dressed up by Okilia and Umbima men 
with all the ornaments such as forehead band, arm strings, 
tail tips, etc., which are worn by a native beau. He is also 
provided with a shield and spear-thrower, and just about day- 
light the party starts for the main camp, the young man 
walking in the centre by the side of the Irkoa-artha man, 
while all shout loudly "tirra, tirra, tirra" When within 
about fifty yards of the women, who are dancing and shouting 
as before, the men halt, and the Irkoa-artha leads the Ertwa- 
kurka on but only accompanies him for a few yards, after 
which he goes on alone, carrying his shield in front, so as to 
hide his face. When he comes close up to the women one 
or two Ungaraitcha, that is blood and tribal elder sisters, who 
are in the lead carrying pitckis (all the other women carry 
tufts of rat-tails in their hands), throw the pitchis at his 
shield and then press their hands on his shoulders from 
behind, and also rub their faces on his back, after which they 
cut off some locks of his hair, which they afterwards use to 
make up into hair string ornaments for themselves. This 



ceremony is called anainthalUima, and after it is over the 
Ertwa-kurka is free to go into the presence of the various 
officials who have taken part in any of the ceremonies, though 
he must not speak to or of them until some months have past, 
nor must he speak loudly in their presence. 

At daylight on the morning of the next day the men 
provide themselves with fire-sticks and, surrounding the young 
man, conduct him to the women, who are again waiting to 
receive him. He is fully decorated and carries a shield and 
boomerang and some twigs of Eremophila. When the party 
is within a short distance of the women the men throw down 
their fire-sticks and halt, and the young man steps out from 
the centre of the group and throws his boomerang high up 
in the direction of the spot at which his mother was supposed 
to have lived in the Alcheringa. This throwing of the 
boomerang in the direction of the mother's Alcheringa camp, 
that is, of course, the spot at which the Alcheringa individual 
of whom his mother is supposed to be the reincarnation, 
lived, occurs during the performance of other ceremonies, 
such, for example, as those which accompany the knocking 
out of teeth in eastern groups of the Arunta and also in the 
Ilpirra tribe. It may in all likelihood be regarded as in- 
tended to symbolize the idea that the young man is entering 
upon manhood and thus is passing out of the control of the 
women and into the ranks of the men. The fact that he is 
using the boomerang is indicative of this, and his throwing it 
towards his mother's camp is an intimation to her of the fact 
that he is passing away from her control ; at the same time 
there remains the curious feature, the exact significance of 
which it is difficult to see, that it is thrown towards the 
Alcheringa camp rather than towards the mother herself. 

After the throwing of the boomerang, the Ertwa-kurka is 
led forward by the Irkoa-art/ut man, holding, as before, his 
shield before his face, and is placed squatting on a fire which 
has been prepared by the women, and which is now covered 
by green leaves. Behind this the women stand making the 
movement of invitation already described and shouting 
" lirra, ttrra, tirra." The women place their hands on his 
shoulders and gently press him down. After remaining on 

S 2 



the fire for a short time he is taken off by the Irkoa-artha 
and handed over to a few young boys who have not yet been 
initiated, and who are told to camp with him but on no 
account to speak to him. After three days, during which 
he speaks to no one, men who are his Okilia come out from 
the men's camp and invite him to Join them, after which he 
becomes a permanent member of the camp. Before, however, 
he may speak to any of the officials who took any part in 
the various ceremonies he must go out into the bush and 
procure game as an offering to each one of them, this gift 
being known as Chaurilia. 

At the presentation of CItaurilia the man to whom it is 
given always performs some sacred ceremony, after which the 
mouth of the Ertwa-kurka and those of all present are 
touched with some sacred object which has been used during 
the ceremony, such as a Njirtunja, and in this way the ban of 
silence is removed. When these ceremonies have been passed 
through the native is regarded as an initiated member of the 
tribe and may take part in all the sacred ceremonies of his 
group, though it is not until he has passed through the 
Engwurra that he becomes what is called Urliara or a fully- 
developed man. 

The following names, which may be called status names, 
indicating the different grades of initiation, are applied to 
the boy, youth and man at the times indicated : — 

(i) Ambaquerka, up to the time of throwing up. 

(2) Ulpmerka, after the throwing-up ceremony and until 
that of circumcision. 

(3) Wurtja, after the first ceremony of painting in con- 
nection with circumcision. 

(4) Arakurta, after circumcision and before sub-incision is 

(5) Ertwa-kurka, after sub-incision and until he has passed 
through the Engwura. 

(6) Urliara, after the Engwura has been passed through. 

In the northern part of the tribe the ceremonies a^[ree in all 
essential points with those which have been described in the 
case of the natives living along the Finke river. There are 



however, certain differences in detail which may be men- 
tioned. Early on the day on which the ceremony of Lartna 
or circumcision is to commence, the Ulpmerka is taken away 
from the camp on some pretext, while the men and women 
spend the day in preparing the collected food supplies, such 
as the seeds of acacia or inunyeru. Every now and then they 
break out into the monotonous chant of a corrobboree, to 
which the women, but not the men, dance, while a feeling of 
suppressed excitement throughout the camp indicates that 
some ceremony of more than ordinary importance is about to 
take place. At sundown the boy is brought into camp, and, 
unconscious of what is in store for him, spends the evening as 
usual at the men's camp, lying down to sleep there. Towards 
"the middle of the night, when all is quiet, an elder brother 
of the boy, after seeing that the latter is sound asleep, wakens 
the other members of the camp, and all together, men and 
women, they go to the spot close at hand which has previously 
been selected. The women stand quietly on one side while 
the men, with as little noise as possible, clear the grass and 
rubbish away, and thus prepare the Apulia ground. Then all, 
except three brothers of the boy and two young women, sit 
down around the Apulia, while the five selected ones go to the 
camp to awaken and bring the boy. The two women go in 
advance, each of them carrying an Alparra, which is a 
scooped-out piece of wood such as the women use to carry 
food and water in, and, creeping quietly up to the Ulpnurka, 
suddenly strike him sharply with their Alparras, crying out 
loudly at the same time, " Utc/tai'J Utchai I " The boy. 
naturally dazed and startled, springs to his feet, when the 
three men take hold of him, and tell him that the time has 
come when he must no longer remain an Ulpmerka, but must 
be made into a man — an Ertwa-kurka. So soon as the cry 
of" Utcltai" is heard the men begin to sing and the women 
to dance. 

The subsequent proceedings, including the painting by 
Uwilia men and the handing of the fire-stick by an Unchal- 
kulkna. woman, though there may be more than one of these, 
are much the same as those already described. On the day 
on which the actual operation is to be performed there is, 



however, a slight variation in the procedure. After being 
ornamented with twigs of Eucalyptus, two rows of spears are 
fixed upright, one row on either side of the Apulia path. 
They form a kind of grove, with the path running between 
them. About midday, when all is ready, some of the men 
leave the camp to go and bring the boy in. When the signal 
of their return with the boy, who is hidden out of sight of the 
women, is given, then the latter at once go in between the 
line of spears, and, while some of the older men sing, perform 
the Unthippa dance, and then, standing by the poles, strip 
these of their leaves. As the men with the boy approach 
they all throw pieces of bark at the women, a signal to them 
to disperse and go to their camp, out of sight of the Apulia. 
The boy is placed at one end of the path behind a brake* 
of boughs, of which, in this instance, only one and not two, as 
described before, is made. At night the women are brought 
back, and sit on either side of the path at the base of the 
stripped spears. Two Okilia go to where the boy is as yet 
hidden from the women, throw on one side the boughs, and 
then, accompanied by the Ulpmerka, hop down the path 
until they have traversed half its length, when they dlvei^e, 
one to the right and one to the left, while the boy goes on 
until he collides with a man who has been purposely placed 
so that he shall do this. This man is here called Tapunga, 
and at once he rolls over on to his back, and the boy lies on 
the top of him. Silence is now maintained by all. In this 
position the painting is rubbed off the Ulpmerka's back. 
Then the Arachitta poles are brought in, and as the men 
dance the women strip the poles, which are tied on to the 
legs as described. The men remain calm, but the ivomen 
grow wilder and wilder, singing : — 

" Atnlntu rappira. kit peika-a-a 

Ok nar inta 

Vur a puncha kwi 

Vui a puncha kwi." 

Whilst this is in progress the boy gets off the man's back and 
sits up watching the dance, which suddenly ceases when the 
sound of a bull-roarer is heard. At once the women run off, 
and very shortly after the operation is performed. In this dis- 



trict the man who holds the shield is termed the Urintkantima, 
and he must belong to the moiety of the tribe to which the 
boy does not. The operation is almost always performed by 
a man who is Ikuntera to the boy, and who is assisted by one, 
or it may be two men, who are called Killarina, and who must 
also belong to the other moiety of the tribe. When all is 
over the boy is given a bundle of Churinga and sent out 
in charge of a man as previously described, until he has 
recovered, and is ready for the further operation. 

The rite of sub-incision, which may be said to be charac- 
teristic of the great group of tribes occupying the interior parts 
of Queensland,* New South Wales, and South Australia, right 
away to the far north, and at all events a very large part of 
West Australia," has frequently been alluded to by Curr and 
other writers under the name of the " terrible rite" — a term 
which, as Dr. Stirling suggested, may well be discarded. It 
consists, as is well known, in sub-incision of the penis, so that 
the penile urethra is laid open from the meatus right back to 
the Junction with the scrotum. It is certainly a most extra- 
ordinary practice, and one which it might be thought would 
be frequently attended with serious results ; but none such ap- 
parently ever follow, though in their native condition the 
operation is performed merely with a sharp chipped piece 
of flint or a small knife made of a hard flaked quartzite. The 
Arunta natives have no idea as to the origin of the practice, 
and it seems almost useless to speculate upon it, Mr. Roth 
has su^ested that the mutilation of the women, which takes 
place, so far as is known, in all those tribes where sub-incision 
is practised by the men, was indirectly the origin of the latter, 
" that, on the principle of a form of mimicry, the analogous 
sign was inflicted on the male to denote corresponding fitness 
on his part." This still leaves unexplained the mutilation of 
the women, and it would seem to be almost simpler to imagine 
that this was a consequence of the mutilation of the men. 

» cf. RoA, /«. cit. 

* Mr. A. Morton, who has recently been engaged in anthropological work in 

West- Australia, infbtins us that the operation is universally carried out amongst the 
tribes with whom he came in contact. See also Helms. Trans. Roy. Sk. South 
Aktlralia, vol. xvi., p, 276. 



In the Arunta tribe tradition ascribes the origin of the custom 
to the members of the wild cat totem and points clearly to 
the fact that it was introduced by the members of some 
powerful group at a time subsequent to the introduction of 
the rite of circumcision. 

One thing is clear, and that is that at the present day, and 
as far back as their traditions go, the Arunta natives at least 
have no idea of its having been instituted with the idea* of its 
preventing or even checking procreation. In the first place 
it does not do this. Every man without exception throughout 
the Central area, in all tribes in which the rite is practised, is 
sub-incised. Under the normal conditions he must be before 
he is allowed to take a wife, and infringement of this rule 
would simply mean death to him if found ouL Though 
it is true that the number of children rarely exceeds four 
or perhaps five in a family, and, as a general rule, is less still, 
perhaps two or three, yet the cause of this is not sub-incision. 
It is infanticide which is resorted to for the purpose of keeping 
down the number of a family. And here we may say that 
the number is kept down, not with any idea at all of regu- 
lating the food supply, so far as the adults are concerned, but 
simply from the point of view that, if the mother is suckling 
one child, she cannot properly provide food for another, quite 
apart from the question of the trouble of carrying two children 
about. An Australian native never looks far enough ahead 
to consider what will be the efiect on the food supply in future 
years if he allows a particular child to live ; what affects him 
is simply the question of how it will interfere with the work 
of his wife so far as their own camp is concerned ; while from 
the woman's side the question is, can she provide food enough 
for the new-born infant and for the next youngest ? 

The Arunta native does not hesitate to kill a child — 
always directly it is bom — if there be an older one still in 
need of nourishment from the mother, and suckling is con- 
tinued up to the age often of three years or even older. 
With an easy solution, which moreover he does not 
hesitate to practise, of the difficulty arising from the birth of 
too many children, it is scarcely conceivable that the men 
should deliberately pass through a most painful ordeal 



with the idea of achieving a result which can be obtained 
otherwise without pain or trouble to themselves, and when 
also they know perfectly well that the desired result is not 
obtained by the performance of the operation. Added to this 
we have amongst the Arunta, Lurltcha,and Ilpirra tribes, and 
probably also amongst others such as the Warramunga, the 
idea firmly held that the child is not the direct result of 
intercourse, that it may come without this, which merely, 
as it were, prepares the mother for the reception and birth 
also of an already-formed spirit child who inhabits one of the 
local totem centres. Time after time we have questioned 
them on this point, and always received the reply that the 
child was not the direct result of intercourse ; so that in these 
tribes, equally with those dealt with by Mr. Roth, the practice 
of sub-incision cannot be attributed to the desire to check 
procreation by this means. 

In the south of the Arunta tribe the ceremonies again are 
somewhat different from these, both in the west and in tho 
east At Charlotte Waters, for example, the following is an 
account, in outline, of what takes place. 

When the time arrives for a boy to be initiated, his Okilia 
talks to men who are Umbima to the boy and arranges with 
two of them to carry out the first part of the proceedings. 
Towards evening the two Umbima go to the boy, who has no 
idea of what has been arranged, and one of them takes hold 
of him while the other comes up from behind, carrying a 
special small white stone called aperta irrkurra, which he 
puts under the armpit of the boy. Then taking hold of him, 
one by each arm, they take him along with them to the camp 
of his mother and father. Here, by previous arrangement, 
the different members of the camp are assembled. All the 
men sit in a roughly semi-circular group, and together with 
them are women who stand in the relationship of Mia and 
Uwinna to the boy. The latter, with an Umbima man on 
either side of him, is then told to lie down in front of the 
group, and behind him again are gathered together the 
women who are Ungaraitcha, Itia, Utiawa and Ufikul/a tohim. 
These women commence to dance to the singing of the men, 
and when this has gone on for some little time they retire 


j66 native tribes OF CENTRAL AUSTRALIA CHAP. 

behind the group of men, and then the boy is allowed to go 
to sleep, watched over during the n^ht by the two Umbirna 
who are called Ukarkinja. The latter wake him early and, 
alter tying up his hair with whitened string, decorate it with 
tufts of eagle-hawk feathers. When this has been done the 
boy is called Au-aritcha. This over, the boy's Ungaraitclia 
and Itia. bring him food in the shape of munyeru or grass seed, 
of which he eats some and gives the rest to his two Umbirna. 
Then, if she be present, the.^»r« woman whose daughter has 
been allotted as wife to the boy, or, in her absence, the 
Umbirna men, paint him all over with red ochre. After this, 
the further ceremonies may either be carried out on the spot 
or else the boy may be taken away to a different local group, 
where the first part of the ceremonies will then be performed, 
There does not appear to be any rule in regard to this. In 
the event of the boy being taken away, he goes under the 
charge of the same two Umbirna men, wearing, as he walks, 
his hair-string, and carrying the stone under his arm. On 
approaching the strange camp the men call out "Paul Pati!" 
sharply and loudly, while at the same time each of them 
swings backwards one of the boy's arms. The strangers 
recognise what is happening, and the men get up, leave the 
camp near to which the visitors have halted, and while the 
women lie down in camp they come out to meet the three. 
The hair-string and stone are then taken away from the boy, 
who is thrown up in the air by the strangers, who catch and 
strike him as he falls. This throwing up is called Au-aritdta 
iwuma. When this is over the stone is given back to the 
boy, but the hair-string is given to the strangers. The boy 
himself has to go some little distance away and may not be 
spoken to by the women, though the men go near and speak 
to him freely. 

Preparations are then made for the return to the home 
camp, all the men and women coming, while the boy, with 
his two Umbirna, walks behind. At some little distance from 
the spot at which the men have, during the boy's absence, made 
the camp at which the operation of Lartna will be performed, 
a halt is made, and here the boy and the two Umbirna stay 
behind for the purpose of painting his body with white pipe- 



clay, tying up his hair and putting on the waist band which 
he now wears for the first time. The strangers, marching on, 
announce their approach by the usual sharp cry"Pau/ Pau!" 
The resident old men and women are sitting down at the camp, 
but the young men have to go away, to some little distance, 
so as not to be seen as yet by the boy. At first the strangers 
sit down in the customary way at a short distance from the 
camp, which they do not enter until, at a later time, they are 
invited to do'so by the older men. When the Au-aritcha and 
the Umbirna come up they take a position in front of the 
strangers and between them and the resident group. After a 
short pause the boy's UngaraiUha come out and give him 
food, and then, together with his two guardians, he returns to 
the bush, which is the signal for the younger men to come 
from their hiding place and join the strange group, the 
members of which come into camp usually about dusk. 

In the evening the same women dance as on the previous 
occasion, the dance being called Ikhilcha-intum wutha- 
perrima. The dance is repeated during the course of the 
following evening, and during the two days whilst the boy is 
out of the camp there takes place both a lending and an inter- 
change of women, the usual class restrictions being, however, 
observed. Two men belonging to the resident group will, for 
example, determine without saying anything previously to 
two visiting men to lend their wives each to one of the latter. 
During the dance these two men will get up from the group 
of men watching the dance, and each one taking a fire-stick 
will give it to his wife, who is amongst the dancers. The 
woman knows what this means and retires to some distance. 
Then the two men return to the main group, and each going 
behind the man to whom he desires to show attention, either 
in return for some past act of kindness or in anticipation of 
favours to come, lifts him up by his elbows and informs 
him of his intention. The exchange, or lending, is merely a 
temporary one, and in this instance only takes place between 
those who are Unawa to each other. 

When the two days are over the boy is brought back and 
the women are sent away from the camp where the dancing 



has taken place and where the operation of Lartna will 
shortly be performed. As in the case of the south-western 
or the Larapinta groups already referred to, various cere- 
monies are performed in which a Waniiiga is used, and 
this the boy is made to embrace before the operation is 
performed. When this is about to take place, the boy is 
told to lie down on the ground while an OkUia puts his hand 
over the former's eyes, and a man who is Unkttlla to the boy 
goes away to some little distance. While this takes place, a 
few, perhaps half a dozen, men lie down on the ground so as 
to form a kind of table, and when the Okilia lifts his hand 
from his eyes the boy sees the Unkulla man approaching at 
a run. This man places him on the top of the prostrate men, 
whom the boy afterwards calls inintuwura, and at once the 
operation is performed by an Ikuntera man whom the boy 
calls urtivi-urtwia. The Okilia stand by shouting " araiwirra, 
arundertna " — " You be quiet, do not cry." 

As always, the blood is collected in a shield and is handed 
over to the Okilia, who thereupon makes a hole in the ground 
and buries in this the blood and the foreskin ; then small 
stones are put on top of the latter, and the hole is filled 
with sand, on the surface of which a short piece of stick, 
perhaps six inches long, is laid down horizontally. This 
stick is called Ultha, and neither the boy who has been 
operated upon nor yet any woman, may go near to it. 

When the operation of Lartna is over, the boy is called 
Atnurrinia. As soon as he has recovered, the operation of 
Ariltha is performed in much the same manner as already 
described, except that in this southern district no Nurtunja is 
made. The men who lie down on the ground are called 
Atrapumtum ; the Unkulla man who sits on the boy's chest 
is called Ikwarta, and the Ikuntera man who performs the 
ceremony is called Pininya. It is usual during the ceremony 
for the Unkulla man to take off his hair girdle and to lay 
it down close beside the boy with the object of preventing 
too great a flow of blood. 

After the operation of Ariltha the novice is called Allal- 
lumba. When it is over he is taken out into the bush by 



an Okilia who may be accompanied by a Gammona man, 
and after recovery his body is painted white, the hair-string 
girdle and the pubic tassel are put on, he is brought up to 
the men's camp and then taken on to where, close to the 
Erlukwirra, the women are waiting. The throwing of a 
boomerang, the meeting between the boy and his Ungaraitcha, 
when the latter hit him on the back, and the smoking of the 
novice are carried out in essentially the same way as already 
described. When all this is over, the novice returns with 
the men to their camp, and during the night a ceremony 
concerned with the owl totem is always performed ; why 
this is so we have not been able to discover. For some time 
the newly initiated man may not speak to any of the men or 
women who have taken part as officials in any of the cere- 
monies, but, as previously described, the ban of silence is 
ultimately removed after he has presented to each one 
separately an offering of food. 

In r^ard to the initiation ceremonies of women, it is clear 
that, as was first shown by Roth, there are certain ceremonies 
which are evidently the equivalents of the initiation cere- 
monies concerned with the men. Such ceremonies occur, 
though not to such an extent as described by Mr, Roth, in 
the Central tribes. The first one takes place when the girl's 
breasts are rubbed with fat and red ochre, and the second, when 
the operation of opening the vagina is performed. This is 
clearly regarded as the equivalent of sub-incision in the male, 
the name of the latter ceremony being pura ariltha kuma, 
while in the case of the woman it is called alna ariltha 
kuma. There Is no special name given to a female after 
any initiation rite. Up to the first menstrual period she is 
called quiai, the ordinary name for a girl, just as wiai is the 
ordinary name for a boy ; after that she is called wunpa, a 
name which she retains until the breasts hang pendent, after 
which she is called arakutj'a, the ordinary term for a grown 
woman. The first ceremony may perhaps be regarded as 
the equivalent of the throwing up and painting of the boys, 
there being amongst the women no equivalents of the Larttta 
(circumcision) or Engwura ceremonies of the men. 



We have described the ceremonies attendant on what may 
be called the initiation of women, the first in connection with 
other ceremonies peculiar to women,^ the second in the 
chapter dealing with the social organisation, as it has im- 
portant bearings upon this, and may be most conveniently 
dealt with in connection therewith. 

' Cf. Chapter XII. 


Initiation Ceremonies {continued) 


Five [biases of the Engwura — Summoning the members of the tribe to the 
Enewura — Plan of the ground on which the ceremonies were held — Divi^on 
of the tribe into two moieties — Disposal of tKe Churinga in two coTtesponding 
groups — General remarks on the ownership and names of the ceremonies — 
Control of the Engwura — First phase — Performance of two ordinary corrob- 
botees — ^Passine on of conobborces fiom one group to another — Building of 
Uie Parra on the Engwura. ground — Separation of the younger men from the 
women — Second phase — Performance of sacred ceremonies — Description of 
the last right days of the second phase^Themakii^of iMirft/w/a— Enamin- 
Btion of Chuiinga — "Singing" the ground — Various ceremonies— Handing 
over of Churinga which haa been taken care of by a neighbouring group 
during the temporary extinction of the group to which Ibey belonoed — The 
making and meaning of a Wanitiga — Making the younger men aSmeara to 
certiun of the older ones — The younger men are now called Illfeitgjvitrra. 

The Engwura, or, as it is called in some parts of the tribe, 
Urumpilla, is in reality a long series of ceremonies concerned 
with the totems, and terminating in what may be best de- 
scribed as ordeals by fire, which form the last of the initiatory 
ceremonies. After the native has passed throtigh these he 
becomes what is called Urliara, that is, a perfectly developed 
member of the tribe. We cannot fully translate the meaning 
of either term, but each of them is formed, in part, of the 
word ura, which means fire. The natives themselves say 
that the ceremony has the effect of strengthening all who 
pass through It It imparts courage and wisdom, makes the 
men more kindly natured and less apt to quarrel ; in short, it 
makes them eriwa murra oknirra, words which respectively 
mean " man, good, great or very," the word good being, of 
course, used with the meaning attached to it by the native. 



Evidently the main objects of it are, firstly, to bring the 
young men under the control of the old men, whose com- 
mands they have to obey implicitly ; secondly, to teach them 
habits of self-restraint and hardihood ; and thirdly, to show 
to the younger men who have arrived at mature age, the 
sacred secrets of the tribe which are concerned with the 
Churinga and the totems with which they are associated. 

The Engwura may be performed in various places, but, as 
it is a ceremony at which men and women gather together 
from all parts of the tribe, and sometimes also from other 
tribes, a central position is preferred if it be intended to carry 
it out on a large scale. It is, indeed, a time when the old 
men from all parts of the tribe come together and discuss 
matters. Councils of the elder men are held day by day, by 
which we do not mean that there is anything of a strictly 
formal nature, but that constantly groups of the elder men 
may be seen discussing matters of tribal interest ; all the old 
traditions of the tribe are repeated and discussed, and it is by 
means of meetings such as this, that a knowledge of the un- 
written history of the tribe and of its leading members is 
passed on from generation to generation. Not only this, but 
while the main effect is undoubtedly to preserve custom, yet, 
on the other hand, changes introduced in one part of the 
tribe (and, despite the great conservatism of the native such 
changes do take place) can by means of these gatherings, 
become generally adopted in much less time than would be 
the case if they had to slowly filter through, as it were, from 
one locality to another. 

Some idea of the importance of the ceremony may be 
gathered from the fact that the one which we witnessed com- 
menced in the middle of September, and continued till the 
middle of the succeeding January, during which time there 
was a constant succession of ceremonies, not a day passing 
without one, while there were sometimes as many as five or 
six within the twenty-four hours. They were held at various 
hours, always one or more during the daylight, and not in- 
frequently one or two during the night, a favourite time being 
just before sunrise. 

Whilst the whole series of ceremonies followed one another 





without a break, yet there were five clearly marked phases, 
each of which was characterised by certain important features 
peculiar to it, and these phases we will describe in succession. 
They may be briefly outlined as follows : — 

Phase 1, Sending out the messengers. Assembling of the 
tribe. Performance of introductory corrobborees. Building 
of the Parra on the Engwura ground, and the commencement 
of .the sacred ceremonies.- The characteristic feature of this 
phase is the holding of ordinary dancing corrobborees at 
night-time, in which the women take part When once 
these are over, which takes place between two and three 
weeks from the start, the women take no further share until 
close to the end of the ceremonies. 

Phase 2. The men are separated from the women and live 
on the Engwura ground, where sacred ceremonies are per- 
formed day and night This extends over, perhaps, six 
weeks, and lasts until the men who are being initiated are 
made abmaara to certain elder men who take charge of 
them. After this they are called Illpongwurra. 

Phase 3. The sacred ceremonies are continued, the Illpong- 
wurra being distinguished by wearing twigs of a special shrub, 
and may not speak to their abmoara men. This phase lasts 
until a special ceremony connected, in this instance, with the 
frog totem is performed, to witness which the young men are 
brought on to the Engwura ground to the accompaniment of 
the sound of bull-roarers, which, after this, are much used. 
This phase extends over alx>ut eight days. 

Phase 4. The Illpongwurra are taken out of camp in the 
morning and brought in at night-time by old men who carry 
bull-roarers. This is the most important phase, and during 
its continuance the fire ceremonies are passed through. It 
extends over two weeks or more, and after the final ceremony 
of this phase the initiated men rank as Urliara, 

Phase S- The newly-made Urliara are kept out in the 
bush. Corrobborees, in which women take part, are held at 
night-time, and at intervals sacred ceremonies are performed 
in connection with the removal of the ban of silence between 
those who are abmoara to one another. This phase lasts an 
indefinite length of time, but after its commencement the 



camp breaks up and the ditferent members begin to return to 
their respective localities. 

When it has been decided by any particular group to hold 
an Engwura, — and the initiation rests with the Alatunja, the 
latter, after consultation with the older men, sends out messen- 
gers to other groups. Each of these carries with him one or 
two Ckuringa irula, that is, wooden Churinga, carefully con- 
cealed from view in a casing of emu feathers. The Engwura 
messenger is called Ilchinkinja, a term derived from the two 
words ilc/ia, a hand, and ilkinja, to raise or lift up, so that 
it may perhaps be best rendered by the phrase " the beckon- 
ing hand." In the normal condition of the tribe no native 
dare disobey the summons thus received under penalty of 
most serious ill to himself, which would be certain to ensue 
should he neglect to follow the Churinga. Sometimes the 
one set of messengers passes through from group to group, 
sometimes each Alatunja, to whom the Churinga comes, pro- 
vides fresh men, and so, in course of time, after having tra- 
velled many hundreds of miles, the Churinga at last returns to 
the original sender. 

When a messenger reaches any group he shows the Churinga 
as an emblem of his bona fides to the Alatunja and elder 
men, and then delivers his verbal message, saying when and 
where the tribe will assemble. Amongst the Arunta and 
Ilpirra there is no such thing as a message stick in the true 
sense of the term, that is, there is no such thing as a stick cut 
with notches or other marks for the purpose of reminding the 
bearer of the message, such as is frequently met with amongst 
other Australian tribes. 

Gradually the various local groups begin to arrive at the 
chosen spot, the group inhabiting which has meanwhile been 
gathering in stores of food such as grass seed, or munyeru. 
A spot is chosen for the Engwura ground which is more or 
less secluded, and so placed that the women and children who 
are in the main camp cannot see what is taking place on it 
The plan on the following page shows the arrangement of the 
camp during the Engwura. In the particular instance now 
described the ground was a level stretch bounded on the east 
by the river Todd, with its belt of low scrub and gum trees, 

T 2 




and on the west by a rough quartzite range. At the base of 
the range ran a small creek, in the bed of which — for there was, 
as usual in Central Australia, no water in either river or creek — 
the performers ivere decorated without any risk of their being 
seen by any one who had no right to do so. 

L "l ^^-"-" 

■f ''•l^ 



A. storing place ofChur ngauf the Panungaand Bullhara B, sloiing place of Chur- 
inga of the Purula and kumara. C spot where the Fanui^^ and Bullham 
women stood when throwing fire over the Illpengwurra ; D, spot wheie the 
Purula and Kumara women stood when throwing fire over the lUpongmurra ; 
P, Ihe position of the Parra mound ; K, the position of the Kaimiia. 

The natives who assembled came from all parts of the tribe, 
seme travelling a distance of two hundred miles to be present, 
and a few of them came from the Ilpirra tribe, which lies 
immediately to the north of the Arunta, and in which a 
ceremony similar to the Engwura is held. 

As the various contingents reached Alice Springs, each one 



comprising men, women and children, camps were formed on 
the eastern side of the creek, the position of any camp indi- 
cating roughly the locality of its owner. Thus the southern 
men camped to the south and the northern men to the north, 
and, as is always the case, Bulthara and Fanunga men on the 
one hand, and Kumara and Purula men on the other hand, 
camped close together, A very noticeable feature also was 
the disposal of the Churinga. Those belonging to the Panunga 
and Bulthara men were all placed together on a small platform 
which was built in a mulga tree on the hill-side at the south- 
west end of the camp, where they were under the immediate 
charge of the Alatunja of the Alice Springs group, who is 
himself a Bulthara man. Those belonging to the Purula and 
Kumara men were under the charge of a Purula man, and 
were placed on a small platform at the northern end of the 
ground. To this storing place of the Churinga during the 
Engwura the name of tkanunda is given. 

This division of the tribe into two moieties, which stands 
out so clearly on the occasion of a ceremony such as the 
Engwura, points to the fact of the original division of the 
tribe into two halves, each of which has again divided into 
two ; as a matter of fact the division has gone on to a greater 
extent, with the result that in the northern section of the 
tribe we find eight divisions, four corresponding to each of the 
original moieties. 

We were hoping that on the occasion of the Engwura, when 
the two moieties were so markedly distinct from one another, 
it might be possible to discover the original names applied 
to them prior to their division, but this was not the case, nor 
were we able to discover any meaning attached to the present 
names of the divisions. 

For the purpose of making things clear we may briefly 
refer again to the constitution of the tribe. The whole area 
over which it extends is divided up into a large number of 
localities, each of which is owned and inhabited by a local 
group of individuals, and each such locality is identified with 
some particular totem which gives its name to the members 
of the local group. The term used by the native, which is' 
here translated by the word totem, is Oknanikilla. If you 



ask a man what is his Oknanikilla he will reply Erlia 
(emu), Unchichera (frc^), Achilpa (wild-cat), &c, as the case 
may be. 

Special men of the Alcheringa are associated with special 
localities in which they became changed into^spirit individuals, 
each associated with a Churinga, and with each locality are 
associated also certain ceremonies which in the Alcheringa 
Were performed by these individuals, and have been handed 
down from that time to the present. Each local group has 
also, as already described, its own Ertnatulunga, or sacred 
storehouse, in which the Churinga are kept. The men 
assembled at the Engwura represented various local totem 
groups, and they — that is, the older men of each group — 
had brought with them numbers of the Churinga from the 

E^ch totem has its own ceremonies, and each of the latter 
may be regarded as the property of some special individual 
who has received it by right of inheritance from its previous 
owner, such as a father or elder brother, or he may have, in 
tiie case of the men who are supposed to possess the faculty of 
seeing and holding intercourse with the Iruntdrinia or spirits, 
received it as a gift directly from the latter, who have at some 
time, so he tells his fellows, performed it for his benefit and 
then presented it to him. This means either that he has ^ad 
a dream during which he has seen a ceremony acted, which is 
quite as real a thing to him as actually seeing it when awake, 
or that being of a more original and ingenious turn of mind 
than his fellows — as the men skilled in magic certainly are — 
he has invented it for himself and has then told the others, 
who implicitly believe in his supernatural powers, that the 
spirits have presented it to him.^ 

Each ceremony, further, is not only connected with some 
totem, but with a particular local group of the totem, and its 
name indicates the fact. Thus we have the Quabara Unjiamba 

1 Atieniion may be drawn to the fact ih«i in the Antntti tribe the men who sie 
supposed lo be able to hold intercourse with the spirits and to receive these 
ceremonies Jrom Ihem are quite distincl from those usually called " medicine' 
men," and that both (he former and the latter are characteristically the reverse of 
nervous or excitable in (em|ierament. 



of Ooraminna,* which is a performance connected with the 
Utijiamba or Hakea flower totem of a place called Ooraminna, 
the Quabara Ulpmerka of Quiurnpa, which is a ceremony 
concerned with certain Ulpnurka, or uncircumcised men of 
the plum tree totem of a place called Quiumpa, and so on. 

Naturally the ceremonies performed at any Engwura depend 
upon the men who are present — that is, if at one Engwura 
special totems are better represented than others, then the 
ceremonies connected with them will preponderate. There 
does not appear to be anything like a special series which 
must of necessity be performed, and the whole programme is 
arranged, so to speak, by the leading man, whose decision is 
final, but who frequently consults with certain of the other 
older men. He invites the owners of different ceremonies to 
perform them, but without his sanction and initiation nothing 
is done. Very often the performance is limited to one or 
perhaps two men, but in others a larger number may take 
part, the lai^est number which we saw being eleven. The 
man to whom the performance belongs may either take part 
in it himself, or, not infrequently, he may invite some one else 
to perform it, this being looked upon as a distinct compliment. 
The performer, or performers, need not of necessity belong to 
the totem with which the ceremony is concerned, nor need 
they of necessity belong to the same moiety of the tribe to 
which the owner does. In some cases while preparations are 
being made for the ceremony only the members of one moiety 
will be present, but very often there is no such restriction as 
this. In many instances those who are present during the 
preparation are the men who belong to the district with 
which the ceremony is associated. Frequently we noticed, 
for example, that the men from a southern locality would be 
associated in preparing for a ceremony connected with a 
southern locality, and, in the same way, men from the north 
would be present during the preparations for a ceremony 
concerned with a northern locality. 

Not infrequently two performances would be prepared 
* In the case of namcK such as this which are in ordinary use, and are indicateil 
on ro«p(, we retain the accepted spelling, though this word, for example, as pro- 
nounced by the natives, should be s|)elt Uruminna. 



simultaneously, and when this was so one of them would be a 
ceremony concerned with Panunga and Bulthara men and 
the other with Purula and Kumara men. Under these cir- 
cumstances one group would consist of the one moiety and 
the other of the other moiety, and they would be separated by 
some little distance and so placed in the bed of the creek that 
they could not see one another. 

Speaking generally, it may be said that every man who was 
a member of the special totem with which any given ceremony 
was concerned would have the right of being present during 
the preparation, but no one else would come near except by 
special invitation of the individual to whom it belonged, and 
he could invite any one belonging to any class or totem to be 
present or to take part in the performance. The mixture of 
men of all groups is to be associated with the fact that the 
Engwura is an occasion on which members of all divisions of 
the tribe and of all totems are gathered tc^ether, and one of 
the main objects of which is the handing on to the younger 
men of the knowledge carefully treasured up by the older men 
of the past history of the tribe so far as it Is concerned with 
the totems and the Churinga. 

On this occasion everything was under the immediate con- 
trol of one special old man, who was a perfect repository of 
tribal lore. Without apparently any trouble or the slightest 
hitch he governed the whole camp, comprising more than a 
hundred full-grown natives, who were taking part in the cere- 
mony. Whilst the final decision on all points lay in his 
hands, there was what we used to call the "cabinet," con- 
sisting of this old man and three of the elders, who often met 
together to discuss matters. Frequently the leader would get 
up from the men anongst whom he was sitting, and apparently 
without a word being spoken or any sign made, the other 
three would rise and follow him one after the other, walking 
away to a secluded spot in the bed of the creek. Here they 
would gravely discuss matters concerned with the ceremonies 
to be performed, and then the leader would give his orders 
and everything would work with perfect regularity and 
smoothness. The effect on the younger men was naturally 
to heighten their respect for the old men and to bring them 



under the control of the latter. With the advent of the white 
man on the scene and the consequent breaking down of 
old customs, such a beneficial control exercised by the elder 
over the younger men rapidly becomes lost, and the native as 
rapidly degenerates. On the one hand the younger men do 
not take the interest in the tribal customs which their fathers 
did before them, and on the other the old men will not reveal 
tribal secrets to the young men unless they show themselves 
worthy of receiving such knowledge. 

After these few general remarks we may pass on to describe 
more in detail certain of the ceremonies which will serve to 
illustrate the long series. 

The first phase of the proceedings was opened by the Alice 
Springs natives performing the Atnimokita corrobboree, which 
occupied ten evenings. As a mark of respect and courtesy 
it was decided by the Alatunja of the group,.after, as usual, 
consultation with the older men, that this corrobboree should 
be handed over in a short time to the man who took the 
leading part in the Engwura and who belonged to a more 
southern group. When once this handing over has taken 
place, it will never again be performed at Alice Springs,' As 
soon as the Atnimokita performance was concluded, another 
called the lUyonpa was commenced, and this also occupied 
ten nights. Two days after it had begun the old leader of 
the Engwura went down to the ground which had been 
chosen — the corrobborees mentioned taking place at a 
separate spot visited by men and women alike — and digging 
up the loose, sandy soil he made a low mound called the 
Parra, measuring about thirty feet in length, two feet in 
width and one foot in height It was ornamented with a row 
of small gum tree boughs, which were fixed one after the 
other along the length of the mound, and is said to represent 
a tract of country, but, despite long inquiry, we have not 

I M[. Kuth has dMCtibed this same handing on uf cotriibbocees from group lo 
group in the case of the (Jueenslaiid tribes, anil, as he has already pointed oul, 
the result is that the words are, as a general rule, quite unintelligible lo the per- 
fiirmecs, the corroblioiee performed on any occasion having probably originated in 
a distant tribe speaking a different language. Kor a full description of one of 
these ordinary dancing cortobboiees. the general features of which are much the 
!iam« over the whole continent, A[r. Koth's work may lie consulted. 



been able to find out what is the exact meaning of the word 
Parra. All that the men could tell us was that it had always 
been made so during the Engwura — their fathers had made it 
and therefore they did — and that it was always made to run 
north and south, because in the Alcheringa the wild cat people 
marched in that direction. On the level flat to the western 
side of this Parra the sacred ceremonies forthwith began 
to be performed. 

When the Illyonpa corrobboree had come to an end, no 
more ordinary dancing festivals were held until the close of 
the whole proceedings some three months later. From this time 
onwards, and until the last act of the Engwura is performed, 
the younger men who are passing through the ceremony must 
separate themselves completely from the women, and are 
entirely under the control of the older men. They must obey 
the latter implicitly. Their days are spent either in hunting, 
so as to secure food, the greater part of which is supposed to 
be brought in to the older men who remain in camp, or in 
watching the ceremonies, or in taking part in them under the 
guidance of the old men, and their nights are spent on, or 
close to, the Engwura ground. 

With the opening of the second phase, the performance of 
the sacred ceremonies concerned with the totems b^an 
in earnest, and as descriptive of this, we may relate what 
took place during the last eight days of the five weeks which 
it occupied. 

Aixjut ten o'clock on the morning of the first day it was 
decided to perform a ceremony called the Quabara Unjiamba 
of Ooraminna. This is concerned with certain women of the 
Unjiamba or Hakea totem, who in the Alcheringa came down 
from the north and marched southwards as far as a spot 
called Ooraminna, about twenty-five miles to the south of 
Alice Springs. The head man of the local group is the owner 
of this ceremony, and together with six Furula men and one 
Panunga man, he repaired to the bed of the small creek, 
where they all sat down under the shade of a small gum tree. 
The other men remained in various places round about the 
Engwura ground, but no one came near to the place where 
the preparations were being made. 



On occasions such as this every man carries about with him 
a small wallet, which contains the few odds and ends needed 
for decoration in the performance of the various ceremonies. 
The wallet consists of a piece of the skin of some animal, 
such as one of the smaller marsupials, with the fur left on, 
or else some flat strips of a flexible bark tied round with 
fur string are used. In one of these wallets will be found 
a tuf^ or two of eagle-hawk and emu feathers, bunches of 
the tail feathers of the black cockatoo, some porcupine-grass 
resin, pieces of red and yellow ochre and white pipe-clay, an 
odd flint or two, balls of human hair and opossum fur string, 
a tuft or two of the tail tips of the rabbit-kangaroo, and not 
least, a dried crop of the eagle-hawk filled with down. 

The men squat on the ground, and their wallets are 
leisurely opened out. There is no such thing as haste 
amongst the Australian natives. On this occasion the owner 
of the Quabara had asked his younger brother to perform the 
principal part in the ceremony. He was a Punila man of the 
Hakea totem, and he had also invited another man who 
was a Panunga of the Achilpa or wild cat totem, to assist in 
the performance. The reason why the latter man was 
asked, though he belonged neither to the same moiety nor 
totem as those to which the owner of the ceremony did, 
was simply that his daughter had been assigned as wife to 
the owner's son, and therefore it was desired to pay him some 
compliment After some preliminary conversation, carried on 
in whispers, which had reference to the ceremony, the per- 
formers being instructed in their parts, and also in what the 
performance represented, a long spear was laid on the ground. 
One or two of the men went out and gathered a number 
of long grass stalks in which the spear was swathed, except 
about a foot at the lower end which was left uncovered. 
Then each man present took off his hair waist-girdle and 
these were wound round and round until spear and grass 
stalks were completely enclosed, and a long pole, about six 
inches in diameter and about eight feet in length, was formed- 
Then to the top of it was fixed a bunch of ea^le-hawk and 
emu feathers. When this had been done one of the men 
by means of a sharp bit of flint — a splinter of glass, if obtain- 



able, is preferred — cut open a vein in his arm, which he had 
previously bound tightly round with hair string in the region 
of the biceps. The blood spurted out in a thin stream and 
was caught in the hollow of a shield, until about half a pint 
bad been drawn, when the string was unwound from the arm 
and a finger held on the slight wound until the bleeding 
ceased. Then the down was opened out and some of it was 
mixed with red ochre which had been ground to powder on a 
flat stone. Four of the Furula men then began to decorate 
the pole with alternate rings of red and white down. Each of 
them took a short twig, bound a little fur string round one 
end, dipped the brush thus made into the blood, and then 
smeared this on over the place where the down was to be 
fixed on. The blood on congealing formed an excellent 
adhesive material. All the time that this was taking place, 
the men sang a monotonous chant, the words of which were 
merely a constant repetition of some such simple refrain 
as, " Paint it around with rings and rings," " the Nurtunja of 
the Alcheringa," " paint the Nurtunja with rings," Every 
now and again they burst out into loud singing, starting on a 
high note and gradually descending, the singing dying away 
as the notes got lower and lower, producing the effect of 
music dying away in the distance. Whilst some of the men 
were busy with the Nurtunja, the Panunga man taking no 
part in the work beyond joining in the singing, another 
Furula man was occupied in fixing lines of down across six 
Churinga, which had been brought out of the Purula and 
Kumara store for the purpose of being used in the ceremony. 
Each of them had a small hole bored at one end, and by 
means of a strand of human hair string passed through this it 
was attached to the pole from which, when erect, the six hung 
pendant. Of the Churinga the two uppermost ones were 
supposed to have actually belonged to the two Hakea 
women who in the Alcheringa walked down to Ooraminna. 
Of the remaining four, two belonged to women and one to a 
man of the same totem, and the remaining one was that of a 
man of the Achilpa totem. 

The decorated pole which is made in this way is called 
a Nurtunja, and in one form or another it figures largely 



in the sacred ceremonies, especially in the case of those which 
are associated with northern localities. Its significance will 
be referred to subsequently. 

As soon as the Nurtunja was ready, the bodies of the 
performers were decorated with' designs drawn in ochre and 
bird's down, and then, when all was ready, the Nurtunja was 
carried by the Purula man to the ceremonial ground, and 
there, by the side of the Parra, the two men knelt down, the 
hinder one of the two holding the Nurtunja upright with both 
hands behind his back. It is curious to watch the way in 
which every man who is engaged in performing one of these 
ceremonies walks ; the moment he is painted up he adopts a 
kind of stage walk with a remarkable high knee action, the 
foot being always lifted at least twelve inches above the 
ground, and the knee bent ■ so as to approach, and, indeed, 
often to touch the stomach, as the body is bent forward at 
each step. 

The Purula man who had been assisting in the decoration 
now called out to the other men who had not been present to 
come up. This calling out always takes the form of shouting 
"pau-au-au " at the top of the voice, while the hand with the 
palm turned to the face, and the fingers loosely opened out is 
rapidly moved backwards and forwards on the ivrist just 
in front of the mouth, giving a very peculiar vibratory effect 
to the voice. At this summons all the men on the ground 
came up at a run, shouting as they approached, " ivh'a ! wka ! 
■iulir-rri" After dancing in front of the two performers for 
perhaps half a minute, the latter got up and moved with very 
high knee action, the Nurtunja being slowly bent down over 
the heads of the men who tvere in front. Then the dancers 
circled round the performers, shouting loudly " wZ/a ,' wka!" 
while the latter moved around with them. This running 
round the performers is called Wahkutnima. Then once 
more the performers resumed their position in front of 
the other men, over whose heads the Nurtunja was again 
bent down, and then two or three of the men laid their 
hands on the shoulders of the performers, and the ceremony 
came to an end. The Nurtunja was laid on one side, and the 
performers, taking each a little bit of down from it, pressed 



this in turn gainst the stomach of each of the older men who 
were present. The idea of placing hands upon the performers 
is that thereby their movements arc stopped, whilst the mean- 
ing of the down being pressed against the stomachs of the 
older men is that they become so agitated with emotion 
by witnessing the sacred ceremony that their inward parts, 
that is, their bowels, which are regarded as the seat of the 
emotions, get tied up in knots, which are loosened by this 
application of a part of the sacred Nurtunja. In some cere- 
monies the Nurtunja itself is pressed against the stomachs of 
the older men, the process receiving the special name of 

The whole performance only lasted about five minutes, 
while the preparation for it had occupied more than three 
hours. As soon as it was over the performers sat on the 
ground ; the down was removed from their bodies and pre- 
served for future use and the Nurtunja was dismantled, the 
hair string being carefully unwound and returned to its 
respective owners. 

The ceremony refers to two Alcheringa women of the 
Unjiamba or Hakea totem. As they travelled they kept 
close to the tracks of one party of Achilpa or wild cat men, 
but do not appear to have ever seen or come in contact with 
the men, who were travelling in the opposite direction. It is a 
remarkable fact that in some way or other the Achilpa and 
Unjiamba totems seem to be connected tt^ether, but what 
the exact connection is we have been unable to discover. 
The Unjiamba women referred to followed as they travelled 
close by, but not actually along, the track of one of the main 
Achilpa parties, and the two groups walked in opposite direc- 
tions. Again, very many of the Achilpa ceremonies refer to 
the men eating Unjiamba, a feature which is not met with in 
the ceremonies of any other totem, and it will further be 
noticed that in the ceremony just described, out of 
six Churinga attached to the Nurtunja, no fewer than five 
belonged to Unjiamba individuals. 

When the ceremony was over there was a rest for an hour 
or two, and then, early in the afternoon, two lots of Churinga 
were brought in from the Panunga and Bukhara store to be 









examined. Men of ail groups — about fifteen in number — 
gathered together in the bed of the creek, with the Churinga 
in the middle of the group. The first lot belonged to the 
Achilpa of Ooraminna, the second to the Irritcha, or eagle- 
hawk men of a place called Undoolya, out to the east of Alice 
Springs, During the examination certain of the younger 
men were present, and in this instance the Churinga, which 
were bound up in parcels tied tightly round with human hair 
string, were unpacked by the sons of the Alatunjas of the 
two localities to which they respectively belonged. While 
this was taking place the men sang as usual, pausing ever>- 
now and then while some* old man leant over to whisper in 
the ear of some one opposite to him. No loud talkii^ was 
allowed, and every one looked as solemn as possible. The 
Churinga having been at last unpacked — for in these cere- 
monies everything is done with the utmost and, to the on- 
looker, often exasperating deliberation — they ivere taken up 
one by one by the Alatunja, in whose charge they were, and 
after a careful examination of each he pressed them in turn 
against the stomach of some one or other of the old men 
present. The man thus honoured held the Churinga, gazing 
down upon it, while a whispered conversation was kept up 
with regard to each one and its former possessor. Amongst 
them was one which was the Churinga nanja of one of the 
wives of the Alatunja of the Alice Springs group, and this 
was handed over to the woman's son for him to carefully 

When the examination was complete they were all care- 
fully wrapped up and taken back to the store, and then 
preparations were made for another ceremony. Previous to 
this, however, at a signal from the head man, all the Purula 
and Kumara men hsid left the ground with the exception of 
two old ones, who were the Gammona of the head man and 
who were especially invited by him to stay and watch. 

The Quabara to be performed was one associated with 
the Ulpmerka of Quiumpa, the latter being a group of men 
belonging to the Akakia or plum tree totem ; the men are 
called Ulpmerka because in the Alcheringa they were, as will 
be explained in another chapter, left uncircumcised — that is. 



they remained Ulpmerka, or boys. The materials having 
been opened out, singing began, the burden being a constant 
repetition of the words " the sand hills are good." This Quabara 
was in the possession of the Alatunja of Alice Springs, and 
he invited a man to perform it who was a tribal son to 
himself, belonging to the Panunga division and to the Irri- 
akura totem. First of all the Alatunja's eldest son went over 


to where the man sat and rubbed his forehead against the 
latter's stomach, then embraced him round the neck and 
ended by rubbing his stomach against that of the man in 
question. Then a Bulthara man came up, that is a tribal 
father, and the same process of embracing was repeated. 
The meaning of this was that the young man had expressed 
a sense of his unfitness to undertake the duty, but when he 



had once been embraced in this way by men who were 
especially associated with the ceremony it was impossible for 
him to refuse any longer. As soon as this was over the 
Alatunja of Alice Springs at once went over to where he sat 
and began to decorate his head. Twigs of a species of 
Cassia were fixed on to the top of his head enclosing his hair, 
which was gathered into a bunch so as to form, with the 
twigs, a long rounded structure about two and a half feet in 
length, projecting upwards and slightly backwards on the top 
of his head. The twigs were bound round and round with 
hair string. The Alatunja of the Undoolya group, who was 
the father of the performer, bled himself, the blood being 
taken on this occasion, as it very often was, from the subin- 
cised urethra, which was probed with a sharp pointed piece of 
wood. As the decorations proceeded— that is, while the 
head-dress was being covered with a design in white and red 
down, the men sitting around sang of the hair top-knot of 
Kukaitcha, the latter being a celebrated man of the Alche- 
rtnga associated with the plum tree totem, the top-knot having 
reference to the manner in which the hair is worn previous 
to the boys passing through the ceremony of circumcision. 

" Yai yai Kukai 

Ul bl w>i 
Yai yai Kukai 
Vai yai Achcri 
Malacai. " 

Time after time some such simple refrain was repeated while 
the down was Rxed on to the performer's head-dress and 
body. When all was ready the performer, preceded by an 
old man, walked in a crouching attitude along the creek bed 
until he came opposite to the Parra, when he ran straight 
across and squatted in front of and close beside it 

It was just sunset as he came on to the ground, and at the 
same moment the arrival of- a fresh contingent of natives 
from the south was announced. They had come into camp 
on the other side of the river and had, according to strict 
etiquette, sat down there for some little time apart from the 
other men. By way of welcome a party of the natives with 
spears, shields and boomerangs ran across to where th^ sat 


U 2 



and, with the usual high stepping action, danced round and 
round them, brandishing spears and boomerangs and shouting 
loudly ; suddenly they turned, crossed the river and came, 
still running, up the bank, threw their weapons on one side 
amongst the bushes and, without stopping, came on and 
circled round and round the performer, shouting " wah ! 
wak ! " After a short time two Purula men went and sat 
down, one in front of and one behind the performer ; then a 

third came and, as he bent forward over the front one, the 
three placed their hands on the shoulders of the performer 
and he ceased the quivering and wriggling movements which 
he had been executing, while the men danced round him. 
The performer then got up and embraced the older men one 
after the other, this being done to assuage their feelings of 

The evening was spent, as it usually was, singing on the 
ground close to the Parra. During all the first six weeks a 



considerable length of time was always occupied during the 
night in what was called " singing the ground." The young 
men who were passing through the Engwura for the first 
time stood up forming two or three lines close behind one 
another, like lines of men in a regiment of soldiers, and, led 
by one or two of the older men, either moved in a long line 
parallel to the Parra mound, shouting "wlut ! wha!" alter- 
nating this at intervals with a specially loud " whrr-rr-rr" 


when with one accord they bent forwards and, as it were, 
hurled the sound at the Parra, or else they would sometimes 
rush closely round and round the mound in a single line, 
shouting in just the same way. The noise was deafening, 
and the loud "wha" and still more penetrating cry of 
'^whrr-rr-rr" could be heard a mile or two away echoing 
amongst the bare and rocky ranges surrounding the Engwura 
ground. When this singing was over — that was about mid- 
night — they all lay down around their camp fires, and for a 



few hours there was a welcome silence. Usually at night 
there were a few of the men awake preparing, by the light of 
scattered fires, for ceremonies which often took place in the 
dead of the night or else just before the day broke. 

The morning of the second day was entirely occupied with 
the examination of Churinga. Early in the afternoon the 
Quabara Iruntarinia Irritcha was performed. This will serve 
as a good example of what is called an Iruntarinia ceremony, 
that is, one which is supposed to have been imparted to a 
special individual by the Iruntarinia or spirits. The favoured 
person to whom this particular one had been shown was 
a celebrated medicine man, or Railtchawa, the son of the 
Alatunja of an Irritcha or eagle-hawk locality, but who was 
himself an Udnirringita or witchetty grub man. The Irun- 
tarinia can present Quabara to whomsoever they choose 
to honour in this way, quite regardless of the recipient's 
totem. The latter may retain possession of the ceremony 
himself or he may pass it on, as a gift, to some other 
man, but in that case the individual must be of the totem 
with which the ceremony is concerned. Naturally the posses- 
sion of such a ceremony is a mark of distinction, and it 
also gives the possessor a peculiar advantage over others, 
not only because he is so favoured by the spirits, but because 
he has something in his possession which enables him to 
confer a favour on some other man to whom he may decide 
to hand on the Quabara. On this occasion the recipient 
had handed on the ceremony to his own father, who was the 
head of the eagle-hawk group, and from whom, in course of 
time, it will descend to an eagle-hawk son. 

Two men were invited to perform, both of them being sons 
of the Alatunja, and they were respectively of the eagle-hawk 
and emu totems. Only Panunga and Bulthara men were 
present "during the preparations. The hair of each man was 
bunched up and, tf^ether with a conical crown of Cassia 
twigs, was bound round and round with hair string. Then 
blood, drawn in the usual way, was smeared over the front 
part of the head-dress and across the body in the form 
of a broad band round the waist and a band over each 
shoulder, the two uniting back and front. Each band was 




about six inches broad, and had the form when the decoration 
was complete of a solid mass of pink down, edged with a line 
of white. Into the hair-girdle behind was fixed a lai^e 
bunch of the black feathers of the eagle-hawk, and into the 
top of each man's head-dress were fixed three Churinga, 
decorated with close rows of down coloured alternately 
red and white, each Churinga being about three feet in length 
and decorated at its end with a tuft of eagle-ha>vk feathers. 
In his mouth one man carried a small cylindrical mass, about 
eight inches in length and two in diameter, made of grass 
surrounded with hair string and covered with lines of down. 

When the decoration was complete they came into the open 
and each of them sat down on his haunches on the convex 
side of a shield, so that they faced one another at a distance 
of about eight feet. Each man had his arms extended and 
carried a little bunch of eucalyptus twigs in his hands. 
They were supposed to represent two eagle-hawks quarrelling 
over a piece of flesh which was represented by the downy 
mass in one man's mouth. At first thej' remained squatting 
on their shields, moving their arms up and down, and still 
continuing this action which was supposed to represent the 
flapping of wings, they jumped off the shields and with 
their bodies bent up and arms extended and flapping, began 
circling round each other as if each were afraid of coming to 
close quarters. Then they stopped and moved a step or two 
at a time, first to one side and then to the other, until finallyj 
they came to close quarters and began fighting with their 
heads for the possession of the piece of meat. This went on 
for some time and then two men stepped out from amongst 
the audience and took away thei Churinga, which were a great 
weight and must have caused a considerable strain on the 
head, especially in the great heat of the afternoon sun, for it 
must be remembered that it was now well on into the summer. 
Then once more they began going round and round each 
other flapping wings, jumping up and falling back just like 
fighting birds, until finally they again came to close quarters, 
and the attacking man at length seized with his teeth the 
piece of meat and wrenched it out of the other man's mouth. 
The acting in this ceremony was especially good, the actions 



and movements of the birds being admirably represented, 
and the whole scene with the decorated men in front and the 
group of interested natives in the background was by no 
means devoid of picturesqueness. 

Later on in the afternoon there was performed the Quabara 
Unjiamba of Ooraminna, In this ceremony, we again find, 
as in the one already described, the close connection between 
the Unjiamba and Achilpa totems. The two men who per- 
formed, and neither of whom belonged to the totems, were 



decorated each with a broad band round the waist, and one 
passing over each shoulder and joining, back and front, in 
the middle line. The area occupied by these bands was first 
of all rubbed with grease and then with powdered wad, an ore 
of manganese which gives, when used in this way, a peculiar 
pearl-gray tint, which harmonises well with the chocolate- 
coloured skin and stands out in strong contrast to the edging 
of white down which everywhere margins the bands. Over 
each ear was suspended a tuft of the tail tips of the rabbit- 
bandicoot. One of the two men carried a large Churinga on 
his head, fixed into the usual helmet made of twigs bound 
round with string. During the preparation the natives sang 
chants concerning the Kauaua (a sacred pole about which 
there will be more said subsequently) and referring also to 
the carrying round of the Nurtunja. 

Both of the performers represented Achilpa men and they 
sat down immediately facing one another near to the Parra, 
the man carrying the Churinga having a shield in front of 
him, and in his hands a few twigs supposed to represent the 
flowering Hakea — that is the Unjiamba. These he pretended 
to steep in water so as to make the decoction of Hakea flow» 
which is a favourite drink of the natives, and which the man 
sitting opposite to him pretended to suck up with a little 
mop made of a twig with fur string tied round it While 
they did this the other men ran round and round them 
shouting " wfta ! wha ! " Suddenly, the man who had been 
drinking sprang round so as to place his back just in front 
of the other man, who then put the shield behind his back 
with his arms holding it there, and the two for a few moments 
swayed from side to side slightly raising themselves from their 
squatting position as they did so. Those who were running 
round dropped out one by one until only three were left and 
they then put their hands on the performers' shoulders and 
the performance was at an end. The same ceremony was 
enacted about eleven o'clock at night, and then after the 
usual "singing" of the ceremonial ground the day's work 
came to a close. 

On the morning of the third day the Quabara Achilpa of 
Urapitchera was performed. This was a ceremony concerned 



with a group of wild cat men who in the Alcheringa walked 
across from south to north of the eastern side of the country 
now occupied by the Arunta tribe ; whilst doing so they 
camped for a time at a spot called Urapitchera on the Finke 
River. The ceremony is now in the possession of the 


Alatunja of the Imanda group of men of the emu totem and 
he received it from his father who was a wild cat man. At 
the request of the owner it was performed by an old Purula 
man who was the head of the Elkintera, or large white bat 
totem, at a spot close to Imanda which itself lies on the Hugh 
River, In this performance two Nurtunjas, each of them 



about ten feet in length, were prepared. Unlike most of the 
Nurtunjas there was no central support such as a spear, but 
the whole structure was made of a very large number of 
flexible grass stalks bound round with hair string and decorated 
with the usual rings of red and white down, so that each of 
them was somewhat flexible. The performer was decorated 
with lines and bands of down passing from his head along 
either shoulder and then down the body as far as the knees. 
On the Parra ground the Nurtunjas were arranged so that 
one end of each was under the man's waist -girdle, while the 
other, ornamented with a bunch of eagle-hawk feathers, rested 
on the ground, the two diverging from each other. Then 
the other men were called up and began running round and 
shouting and then all passed under the Nurtunjas which the 
performer lifted up for the purpose, the men with their hands 
and shoulders helping to support them, for they had been 
carried in that way in the Alcheringa. Finally, the old 
Funila man to whom the ceremony belongs came up and 
embraced the old performer, who was in fact about the 
oldest man upon the ground and almost blind, but as full of 
energy as the youngest man present 

In the afternoon of the same day a remarkable ceremony 
was performed which had no special relationship to the 
Engwura inasmuch as, though owned by the head man of a 
particular totem- — the Ullakuppera or little hawk — it had 
no reference to either his or any other totem, but was a 
performance representing the doings of certain Kurdaitclia 
men. The description of it is therefore given in connection 
with that of the Kurdaitclia custom to which it more properly 
belongs. We could not find out why it was given during the 
Engwura at all, but it was evidently a favourite one with the 
natives, by most of whom it seemed to be well-known, and the 
opportunity was taken, while a large number were gathered 
tc^ther, to show it to those who had not previously seen it. 
It was repeated at a later date and was the only ceremony 
which was performed which had no special significance as 
regards the Eng^vura 

Early on the morning of the fourth day a very special 
examination of Churinga took place. Some years ago there 



was a small group of Echunpa or large lizard men who lived 
about twelve miles to the west of Alice Springs, Gradually 
the group became extinct until finally no man was left to 
inherit and take care of the sacred storehouse containing the 

Churinga belonging to the group. Under these circumstances, 
the extinct group having consisted mainly of Panunga and 
Bulthara men, a contiguous group which was nakrakia with 
the extinct one, that is consisted mainly of the same moiety 
of the tribe, entered into possession. The totem of this group 



was Unchaika, or little grub, and its head man, as no other 
lizard men lived anywhere near, took charge of the storehouse 
and of its contents. Some years later it chanced that the 
wife of a man of the Alice Springs group conceived a child in 
the old lizard locality and so, in the person of her son, the 
local Echunpa group was resuscitated. The lizard man had 
now arrived at maturity and advantage was taken of the 
Engwura to hand over to him, in the presence of represent- 
atives of the tribe, the Churinga of his ancestors. 

On the evening before, the head man of the Unchaika had 
sent out special messengers to bring in the Churinga, and 
about nine o'clock in the morning they brought them into 
camp and handed them over to their custodian, who at once 
took them down into the creek where a number of the older 
men were gathered together as well as some of the younger 
ones, amongst whom was the man to whom they were to be 
handed over. First of all, the Alatunja of the Unchaika totem 
and those of the two important witchetty-grub groups, the one 
at Undoolya and the other at Alice Springs, knelt over towards 
one another and held a lengthy whisperefl conversation which 
was now and again shared in by other older men in the group, 
the most solemn silence being, as usual, observed by all the 
rest. The purport of this conversation was the holding of an 
Echunpa or lizard ceremony as soon as the present business 
had been carried through, so far, that is, as It was to be carried 
that day. When this matter, and the performers, had been 
decided upon, the old Unchaika man retired to the edge of 
the group. Then the Churinga were laid on shields and 
small boughs cut from the gum tree under which they sat; 
there were about sixty of them all together, and as soon as 
they were all unpacked, the man to whom they were being 
handed over was called up and took his seat along with the 
older men next to the Churinga. A long conversation, again 
carried on in whispers and with much solemnity, then ensued 
between the recipient and the two old men who told the 
former what the Churinga meant and whom they had belonged 
to. When this was over the new possessor rubbed his hands 
over the forehead of the Alatunja of the Undoolya group, who 
was a very old man, and then embraced him and having done 



this went down on his knees and nibbed the old man's 
stomach with his forehead. It may be noted here that the 
deference paid to the old men during these ceremonies of 
examining the Churinga is most marked ; no young man 
thinks of speaking unless he be first addressed by one of 
the elder men and then he listens solemnly to all that the 
latter tells him. During the whole time the presence of 
the Churinga seems to produce a reverent silence as if the 
natives really believed that the spirits of the dead men to 
whom they have belonged in times past were present, and 
no one, while they are being examined, ever speaks in tones 
louder than a whisper. 

The old man just referred to was especially looked up 
to as an Oknirabata or great instructor, a term which is 
only applied, as in this case, to men who are not only old 
but are learned in all the customs and traditions of the tribe, 
and whose influence is well seen at ceremonies such as the 
Engwura where the greatest deference is paid to them. A 
man may be old, very old indeed, but yet never attain to the 
rank of Oknirabata. 

When the young man had rubbed the stomach of the 
Oknirabata, the latter went over to where the Alatunj'a of the 
Unchalka sat and did the same to him in acknowledgment 
of the fact that he had safely kept the Churinga. The reason 
for this action on the part of the Oknirabata lay in the fact 
that he was the oldest Oknia or father of the young man. 
Then he went to an old Okira or kangaroo man and did the 
same. The territory of this man's group lay close to that of 
the Unchalka men, but not being nakrakia with the extinct 
lizard men he and his people could not go in and inherit the 
land. Still the local relationship, which enters in a vaguely 
defined but unmistakable way into the customs concerned 
with the totems, found on this occasion its expression in this 
act of courtesy paid to the head of a neighbouring group by 
the father on behalf of his son. The natives said that this 
was done to keep the old kangaroo man from being jealous 
and unfriendly. As the handing over of the Churinga was a 
matter of great importance it could not be properly carried 
through at one sitting and so, after a long time had been spent 



in their examination, the completion of the ceremony was 
postponed to another day. 

The preparation for the lizard ceremony then b^an. 
The old Oknirabata was to petform it, and after his head had 
been encased in a strong helmet, the whole of this,'as well as 
his face and the upper part of his body and arms, were covered 
with a dense mass of white down, two half rings of which also 
adorned the front of each thigh. A lai^e bunch of eagle 
hawk feathers was fastened behind into his waistband, and on 
his head he carried no fewer than seven large Churinga 
belonging to the totem, two of them being remarkable from 
the fact that they were curved in shape like a boomerang. 
These were the only ones of this shape on the Engwura 
ground, and they were evidently very old ones,' as the 
original pattern with which they had been ornamented was 
almost entirely obliterated by the innumerable rubbings to 
which they had been subjected in course of time. When 
decorated the performer went at first some distance along the 
creek bed so as to be out of sight of the other men, who 
assembled not far from the Parra at a spot where they spread 
out a small patch of gum boughs. Standing behind this they 
waited for a few minutes, after which the lizard was seen 
in the distance throwing up clouds of dust as he came up from 
his hiding place in the creek and approached the ground. He 
came on slowly in a zig-zag course, stooping down and 
assuming a variety of attitudes, always of course with the high 
knee action. The younger man, to whom the Churinga were 
being handed over, now appointed two men to go and meet 
him. This they did about thirty or forty -yards away from 
the group, after which the performer pretended every now and 
then to turn back, whereupon the two men circled round him 
holding their arms up as if to prevent him from going away 
while they cried out " chrr-chrr" and did their best to 
encourage him to come on to where the group of men stood 
waiting. Gradually he came on, and, when close to, the men 
forming the audience went to the boughs and spread them out 
as if inviting him to sit down, which he did after a short time, 

' Amongst many hundred Churinga examined we have only seen five of thb 
shape, and, curiously, all of them belonged to a lizaid totem. 



and then shouting "w/ia/ wlui !" they circled round him in 
the usual way. The two men who went to meet him 
represent little birds called Tkippa-thippa, which tradition 
says are the descendants of Alcheringa men who came and 
watched and ran round and round some lizard men who were 
travelling along towards Simpson's Gap. The Thippa~thippa 


changed into birds of the same name, who ever afterwards 
became the mates of the lizard people. 

The night was spent as usual singing on the ground. 

On the morning of the fifth day we were introduced to a 
new form of ceremony. As might have been expected amongst 
a tribe occupying such an extent of territory as does the 
Amnta, there are certain features in regard to the ceremonies 
which vary in different parts. Not only do the Arunta 
extend in a north and south direction for more than three 
hundred miles, but at their southern limit they are in contact 
with tribes whose customs vary much from their own and in 



which the social oi^anisation is radically different. Wherg 
two such tribes come into contact with one another each has 
a certain influence upon the other, and thus we find that the 
southern Arunta have gained certain things from their southern 
neighbours which are not found in the north, and vice vena. 
We have already pointed out that the Nurtunja in one form 
or another plays an important part in the sacred ceremonies. 
When we come to the southern Arunta its place is taken to a 
large extent by what is called the Wanhtga. This is a 
structure which varies much in size and form, but consists 
essentially ol" a framework of sticks which in its simplest form 
has the shape of a cross, and to which are fixed lines of string. 
We will describe first the ceremony as performed at the 
Engwura, and will then add a few general remarks on the 
subject of the Waninga. On this occasion it was used in 
connection with the Quabara Quatcha of Idracowra, that is a 
rain ceremony associated with what is called by white men 
Chambers Pillar, not far from the Finke River. Idracowra is 
a corruption of the native words iturka wura, the native 
name for the pillar. 

Two men, one a Purula the other a Bukhara, both of them 
belonging to the emu totem, were decorated for the ceremony 
with white bands of down, two on each side of the body. On 
the top of their heads each wore a bunch of parings of gum 
tree wood smeared with human blood. The front man had a 
freshly cut gum stick about two and a half feet in length with 
the green bark still on, and, like the parings, smeared with 
blood. This he carried across his shoulders, one hand holding 
it at either end. His back was adorned with a bunch of eagle- 
hawk feathers fixed in to his waist girdle. The other man, who 
walked immediately behind him, carried the Waninga, which 
he grasped with both hands at the back of his neck. The 
strain on his arms must have been very great, as it was 
carried in an upright position. With particularly high knee 
action, and with their bodies quivering, they came up out of 
the bed of the creek while the audience sat on the ground by 
the side of the Parra, the front row of men, who belonged 
to the southern district from which the Waninga came, 
beating the ground with boomerangs. The perfor 



advanced slowly for about thirty or forty yards, stopping 
every now and then, until finally they came close to the 
seated men. Then a Kumara man got up and took the 
Wantnga away, and placed it carefully on one side. The 
performers then simply walked up to the group, sat down, 
and were pressed upon the shoulders in the usual way. 

In this instance the Waiiinga was made out of a long 
desert-oak spear ten feet in length ; at right angles to its 
length were fixed two sticks about three feet in length, each 
of them at a distance of two and a half feet from one end of 
the spear. Between the two, and running parallel to the 
length of the spear, were strung tightly, and very close 
tc^ether, lines of human hair-string. Each line took a turn 

X 2 



round the transverse stick at either end, and then passed off 
in a slanting direction to the central spear round which it was 
passed, and then ran back again to the transverse bar ; from 
here it was carried back along the length of the structure, 
between the two bars, close by the side of the first line, and 
so on, time after time, until the whole space between the two 
bars was filled in with closely-set parallel bands of string. 
At either end the strands passing ofi" to the central spear 
formed a triangular-shaped structure. A certain number of 
lines forming a band an inch and a half in width, and run- 
ning all round, about the same distance, within the mai^in, 
were made of opossum fur string whitened with pipeclay, the 
same width of string on each side of it being red-ochred, 
while the remainder was left in its normal black colour. Tufts 
of the red-barred tail feathers of the black cockatoo were 
attached to the upper end of the spear and to each end of the 
transverse bars, and finally a number of bands of white down 
were attached in roughly parallel lines across the length of 
the lines of string, little masses of the same material covering 
the bases and tips of the feathers. The whole structure took 
several hours to prepare, and showed no little ingenuity and a 
considerable amount of artistic capacity on the part of its 

The various parts of the Wanittga have their different 
meanings, but it must be remembered that the same structure 
will mean one thing when it is used in connection with one 
totem and quite a different thing when used in connection 
with another. This particular Waninga was emblematic of 
the Quatcha, or water totem. The red string represented 
thunder, the white band lightning, and the ordinary uncoloured 
string was the rain falling. The white patches and bands of 
down naturally represented clouds, while the red of the 
feathers and the blood smeared on the parings of wood worn 
on the men's heads represented the masses of dirty brown 
froth which often float on the top of flood waters. 

This was the only occasion on which, during the Engwura, 
the Waninga was used, the reason being that in perhaps the 
greater part of the tribe, and certainly in the northern half, the 
Nurtunja is most largely employed in totemic ceremonies 



with, it must be remembered, precisely the same significance 
as the Wanitiffa, that is, in each instance the Waninga, or the 
Niirtunja, as the case may be, is emblematic of the particular 
totem with which the ceremony being performed is associated. 
As we pass right into the south the Nurtunja completely 
disappears and the Waninga takes its place. At Charlotte 
Waters, for example, or Crown Point on the lower part of the 
Finke River, no Nurtunja is ever used ; when the rite of 
circumcision is practised a Waninga is made, and after it has 
been used in the performance of a sacred ceremony it is fixed 
up in the ground and the novice embraces it.^ Occasionally 
a kind of compound one is made in which a small one is 
attached to the top of a larger one, in much the same way in 
which a small Nurtunja is sometimes attached to the top of a 
larger one. 

The use of the Waninga extends far south, right down, in 
fact, to the sea coast at Port Lincoln, and it evidently passes 
out westwards, but how far it is impossible to say. At 
Charlotte Waters various totems use it, such as the Irrunpa 
or lizard (the equivalent of the Echunpa of the north), Okira 
or kangaroo, Arunga or euro, and Quatcha or water. The 
Irrunpa Waninga is similar in structure to that of the 
Quatcha, but the parts have an entirely different significance ; 
the projecting end represents the head, the triangular part 
following this the neck, the top transverse bar the fore limbs, 
the main part the body, the lower bar the legs, and the 
bottom end of the spear the tail. Exactly as in the case of 
the different marks on the Churinga, so in the Waninga the 
different parts represent entirely different objects according 
to the totem with which the particular one is associated. 

In connection with this ceremony and the use of the 
Waninga^ we learned the following particulars with regard to 
the wanderings of certain Okira, or kangaroo men, in the 
Alcheringa, which we insert here to give some idea of the 
nature of the instruction with respect to the doings of their 
ancestors in the Alcheringa, which is given by the old men to 
the younger ones during the performance of the Engwura. 
' Ceremonies in which the Waninga is used are clescribcJ in connection with 
the rite of Larfita, Chapter VII. 



Somewhere out from the far west there came two kangaroo 
men who carried with them a lar^^c Wanitiga. They stayed 
for some time, first of all at a spot close to Idracowra, at 
a water-hole called Umbera-wartna, and there they formed 
an Oknanikilla, that is they deposited some of the Churinga 
which they carried in the ground, and so left behind spirit 
individuals of the kangaroo totem ; then they walked on down 
the Finke River to a place called Urpunna, where they 
erected their Waninga and formed another Oknanikilla. 
Then, carrying the Waninga, they went underground and 
crossed beneath the Lilla Creek which enters the Finke from 
the west, and on the southern side they met a mob of 
kangaroos and euros who came to look at them. Travelling 
on they came out of the ground at a group of hills called by 
the natives Amanda, and probably identical with what is now 
called Mount Watt, one of a group of Silurian sandstone hills 
which rise out of the level plains and sand hills about forty- 
five miles to the south-west of the junction of the Finke and 
Lilla. Here they rested for some time and formed an 
Oknanikilla. Then they turned south-east, and travelling 
underground crossed beneath the Wichinga (now called the 
Hamilton) creek, and then on under the Alberga, until once 
more they emerged at Marpinna, where they formed an 
Oknanikilla, and where also they opened veins in their arms 
and allowed the blood to stream out over the ground, and 
so made a great level claj- plain which has remained to 
the present time. Then, after going still further south and 
passing out of what is now the country of the Arunta, they 
turned to the west and made a big circuit through the sand 
hill country now occupied by a part of the Luritcha tribe, 
until finally, turning north, they came to the George Gill 
Range, and crossed this so as to reach a spot now called 
Tempe Downs, where they formed an Oknanikilla. Then 
following this to its junction with the Palmer they went a 
little way up the latter, and. together with their Wanitiga, they 
ceased from wandering, and went down into a well-known 
water-hole called Illara, where they stayed, forming an 
important Oknanikilla of the kangaroo totem. The import- 
ance of the traditions relating to the wanderings of the 



Alcheringa ancestors has already been pointed out in connec- 
tion with the discussion of the totems. It must be remem- 
bered that it is during the Engwura ceremony especially that 
a knowledge of these matters Is imparted by the elder to the 
younger men, on whose memory the traditions are firmly fixed 
by means, to a lai^e extent, of the ceremonies, each one of 
which is associated with some special spot and some special 
individual or group. 

On the sixth day the ceremonies opened with one relating 
to Ulpmerka men who belonged to the Inguitchika (a grass 

seed) totem of a place called Imiunga, on the Jay River. 
This particular ceremony belonged to a Purula man, who 
invited a Bulthara man, assisted by a Panunga, to perform it ; 
the former belonged to the witchetty-grub and the latter to 
the emu.totem. The Bukhara man was son of an Inguitchika 
woman, the other performer being the son of a woman of the 
lUonka (little yam) totem, the locality of which adjoined that 
of the former. The man to whom the ceremony belonged 



was Witia, or younger brother, of the Inguitchika woman, and 
has charge of her Ckuringa nanja. 

For the performance two sticks were taken, each about 
four feet long ; when swathed in grass stalks and bound 
round with hair-string, each of them was about nine inches 
in diameter. The ends were ornamented with bunches of 
white and pink cockatoo feathers and eagle hawk. The two 
were bound together tightly in the form of a cross, and each 
was further ornamented with rings of down. The whole 
structure formed a Nurlunja. During the performance the 
two men squatted down close to one another, each carrying 
in his hand a small twig of gum tree, the Nurtunja being 
fixed on to the head of the hinder of the two men, who 
simply swayed their bodies about from side to side while 
the other men ran round and round them, except two old 
men who squatted down to one side singing about the walking 
about of the Ulpmerka men in the Alcheringa. 

During the evening of this the sixth day, the men seated 
by the side of the Parra began to sing about the Knkhia or 
fur armlets being bound around the arms of the young men 
who were passing through the Engwura, and also h>egan 
singing about the Kauaua, or sacred pole, which was to be 
erected later on. 

On the seventh day an important Quabara of the Ulpmerka 
of Quiurnpa was performed. In this there were seven per- 
formers, three of whom represented boys who wore top-knots 
on their heads — the usual style of doing a boy's hair. Two 
others, who represented an individual called Kukaitcha, the 
leader of the Ulpmerka, wore decorated Churinga fastened as 
usual into a head-dress, which was made of twigs bound 
round with hair-string. One represented an Ulpmerka man, 
and wore a large tuft of eagle hawk-feathers on his head, 
while the last man had an enormous head-dress two feet six 
inches in height, made in the usual way and decorated with 
broad bands of down. Through this was stuck a bent stick 
about four feet in length, carrying at each end a tuft of 
feathers, while from the head-dress were suspended four 
Ulpmerka Churinga, two of them belonging to women and 
two to men. 



Each of the performers was profusely decorated with 
bands of yellow ochre, charcoal or wad, edged with down. 
The preparation for the performance took between two and 
three hours, and was under the superintendence of the 
Alatunja of Alice Springs, in whose charge at present are all 
the Churinga belonging to this group of Ulpmerka men of 
the plum tree totem. They will some day be handed over to 
the only living representative of the totem, who is at present 
too young to receive them. 

During the preparations the men sang of putting twigs on 
to the head of Kukaitcha, of the Paukutta, or top-knots of 
the boys, and of the walking of the Ulpmerka in the 
Alcheringa. The man with the special head-dress was 
supposed to represent a great Alcheringa Kukaitcha, and the 
head-dress itself was a form of Nurlunja, which in this case 
represents a plum tree, the stick which passed through it 
representing the branches. When all was ready the per- 
formers divided into three sets. One 6f the Kukaitchas went 
to a spot at the north-east end of the ground ; the man with 
the Nurtunja was led by the Alatunja up to the Farra, beside 
which he squatted, while the other five went to the north- 
west end of the ground. Of the latter the three representing 
boys sat down in a line, two facing one way and one the 
other. At the end of the line, where the first mentioned ."iat, 
stood one of the Kukaitchas with two Churinga in his hands 
which he kept beating together, the idea being that he was 
teaching the boys to sing. At the other end stood the 
Ulpmerka man pretending to knock plums off a tree, which 
the boy in front of him picked up and ate. When all the 
performers were ready in their allotted places, the other men, 
who had meanwhile remained out of sight in the bed of the 
creek, were called up on to the ground. They were supposed 
to represent a mob of Ulpmerka men, and coming at a run 
on to the ground they went first of all to the solitary 
Kukaitcha man and danced, shouting, around him ; then 
suddenly, accompanied by him, they ran across to where the 
five men were arranged, acting as already described. After 
the usual dancing, shouting, and iaying-on of hands, the 
whole party ran across to where the great Kukaitcha sat, and 



all joined in a dance round him while he swayed about from 
side to side. The usual embracing of the old men by the 
performers brought the ceremony to an end. 

There is a curious tradition of the natives which is con- 
cerned with this special group of Ulpmerka men, with which 

we were acquainted before the Engwura took place, and with 
part of which this ceremony is concerned. About fifteen 
miles to the S.S.E. of Alice Springs is a plum tree totem 
locality. In the Alcheringa the totem included a number of 
men who were designated Ulpmerka of the plum tree totem 



for the simple reason, as explained elsewhere, that they had 
not been circumcised. In the same way it may be remarked 
that we meet with Ulpmerka men of other totems such as the 
grass seed. The plum tree Ulpmerka men had, so says 
tradition, only two women amongst them, who both belonged 
to the bandicoot totem, and had joined the Ulmerka party 
after wandering alone for some time over the country. At 
first they were considerably alarmed at the Ulpmerka men, 
but the latter made a large Nurtunja, and after the women 
had been shown this, then, for some reason, they were no 
longer afraid. The younger woman was then gorgeously 
decorated with down, a small, bluntly conical Nurtunja was 
placed on her head, and the men then danced round her 
shouting, " waft .' wak ! " Then she was taken and laid down 
by the side of the large Nurtunja, which was fixed upright in 
the ground, and the operation of aiaa arill/ia-kuma, the 
equivalent ceremony to that of pura ariltha-kuma as 
practised upon the men, was performed by means of a large 
stone knife, after which all the men had access to her. The 
two women were then taken to the camp of the Kukaitcha, 
who was the headman of the local Ulpmerka men, and who 
claimed the women as his own, but allowed the others to 
have access occasionally to the woman who had been 
operated upon as just described. After a time a special 
messenger or Inivurra, who was also named Kukaitcha, came 
down from the north — from the country, as the natives say, 
of the Quaicha alia — that is the salt water. He called the 
men to him and told them that they were to leave their own 
country and follow him. Then he took the two women away 
from the local Kukaitcha, and a start was made for the 
north. After travelling as far as a place now called Wigley 
Springs, four miles to the north of Alice Springs, the Nurtunja 
which they carried with them was erected, and the elder of 
the two women was operated upon. All the men as before 
had access to her ; and the party remained at this spot for 
some little time. Then they went on towards what is now 
Bond Springs, close to which they camped, and here one man, 
a Kumara, was' left behind. His name was Kukaitcha, and 
at the present day his reincarnation is living at Alice Springs, 



and his Nanja stone is a small block which arose to mark the 
spot where his Alcheringa ancestor went down into the 
earth, leaving behind him his spirit part in his Churinga 
From this spot they went on to the Burt Plain close to, and 
camped at, Allan Waters, after which they went up into the 
sky and continued in a northerly course for some twenty-five 
miles, camping at Umbaltna-nirrima, and here it is related 
that the Ulpmerka played with pieces of bark just as boys do 
now. Travelling on, they again performed ariltka-kuma on 
the younger woman, to whom, by permission of Kukaitcha, 
all had access. The women always travelled along with 
Kukaitcha, at a little distance to the side of the main party. 
At Ulathirka one man, named Apallana, had intercourse 
without permission with the younger woman, and accordingly 
he was killed, but, though thus killed, his spirit part remained 
in his Churinga. At the same spot a Purula man was left 
behind, and his descendant is now living, but as yet he is 
only a young boy not initiated. Halting at various places, 
they travelled northwards until at length they came to the 
country of the salt water, where they remained ever 

The ceremony, which has been described as it was per- 
formed during the Engwura, represents the Ulptnerka men 
of the south being collected together round the Kukaitcha 
from the north prior to their accompanying him. First of 
all there were two performances in which the Ulpnurka men 
were shown dancing round their own Kukaitcha, who was 
the head of the local group, and then all of them went and 
joined t<^ether afterwards in dancing round the Kukaitcha 
from the north, signifying, as it were, that they regarded him 
as the greater man and as their leader. 

In the afternoon the Quabara Interpitna of a place called 
Uratinga on the Finke River, between Henbury and Idracowra, 
was performed. The Interpitna is a fish totem, the particular 
form being known locally as the bony bream {Chatoessus 
homi), which is plentiful in the water holes, such as the 
one at the spot known to white men as the Main camp, 
with which the totem is associated. The possessor, and also 
in this case the performer, of the Quabara was an old Panunga 



man of the Obma or snake totem, who had inherited it from 
his father. His hair was done up as usual, and the whole 
front of the head-dress, as well as his face, was covered 
with a mass of white down, above which stood out in strong 
contrast a large bunch of black eagle-hawk feathers. His 
body was decorated with bands of charcoal, edged with white 
down. Squatting on the ground, he moved his body and 
extended his arms from his sides, opening and closing them 

as he leaned forwards, so as to imitate a fish swelling itself 
out and opening and cJcsing its gills. Then he moved along, 
imitating by means of twigs in his hands the action of a man 
driving before him, with boughs, the fish in a small water- 
hole, just as the natives do. Four men, all from the same 
southern locality as himself, but of different totems, squatted 
down to one side of him singing, while one of them beat time 
with a stick on the ground. Suddenly one of the latter jumped 
across and sat down in front of him, gradually approaching 



nearer and nearer, until he came close enough to put his 
hands on the old man's shoulders. 

Late on at night just before midnight another Quabara of 
the Uipmerka of Quiumpa was performed, representing three 
men eating plums. 

On the eighth day a Quabara of the Irriakura totem of a 
place called Oknirchumpatana, on what is now called Soda 
Creek, was performed. The Irriakura is a favourite food of 
the natives, and is the name given to the bulbs of Cyfierux 
rotundus. One man only was decorated, but the design was 
a very quaint and striking one. A ring of grass stalks bound 
firmly together with human hair-string, and measuring about 
two feet in diameter, was made and covered with white down. 
On the shoulders, stomach, and arms of the performer were 
drawn broad bands of a light pear! colour, made by rubbing ■ 
on some wad ; each band was edged with white down. The 
hair was done into a head-dress, all the front of which, as well 
as the man's face, was covered with down. Then, when he 
had been thus ornamented, the ring was put over his head 
and, rested .slanting forwards and downwards, on his shoulders. 
A large number — not less than a hundred — little bunches of 
the red-barred tail feathers of the black cockatoo had been 
prepared, half of them tipped with red and half with white 
down, and these were stuck into the ring so as to radiate out- 
wards all round it, while numbers of others were stuck into 
his head-dress and beard. The dark chocolate colour of the 
skin, the black and red feathers, the giay bands on the body 
and the white and pink down, together with the light yellow 
sand on which the man sat, formed a striking mixture of 
colours which was by no means unpleasing, and the whole 
decoration was extremely quaint The man seated himself 
in front of a dozen bunches of cockatoo tail feathers, decorated 
with down, just like those on his person, and arranged in' 
a straight line in the sand. Then, moving slightly from 
side to side, he scooped at intervals, and one after another, 
the bunches up with both hands, pausing every now and then 
to look around him and to put himself into the most ridi- 
culous attitudes, as if he heard something which frightened 
him, but could not tell what or where it was. The tufts of 



feathers represented the growing Irriakura, which he ivas 
supposed to be gathering. The other men sat to one side 
watching the performance and singing about Unatunpika, 
the name of the man whom the ceremony represented, and 
which was also in this instance the Churinga name of the 

IG. 61.^ — CEBBMONV 

performer. With the uprooting of the last of the tufts, the 
ceremony came to an end, and then the ring called Ilyappa 
was taken off and put in turn on the heads of the other 
Irriakura men who were present, and also on those of other 
of the older men. The tradition connected with this j>er- 
formance is as follows. In the Alcheringa, Unatunpika sat 



down eating Irriakura at the other side of Oknirchumpatana, 
when suddenly he heard the Irripilchas, that is the ring- 
necked parrots, who were the mates of the Irriakura men, 
cry out to warn him that a mob of- strange men were 
coming up. He dropped his Irriakura and came across 
to Oknirchumpatana. The mob, which also consisted of 
Irriakura men, Jeft two individuals there, whose reincar- 
nations are now living in the form of two individuals, called 
respectively Irrturinia and Irriakura. Then they went on to 
the other side of the Jay River, to a place called Unbanjun, 
where they formed the Oknanikilla, from which sprung, 
amongst others, some of whom are women, an individual 
now living at Alice Springs, called Tukerurnia. 

After midnight there was performed the Quabara Akakia 
(plum-tree), of a place called Itiakilia in the Waterhouse 
Range. This was acted by four men, who were respectively 
Purula and honey-ant totem ; Puruta and " native pheasant " ; 
Purula and whitfe bat ; *ulthara and iUonka> First of alt one 
man came up to where the audience was sitting by the Parra. 
He pretendtd ^o knodt plums down and to eat them, and 
afteta short time nK,sal Jown amongst the autjience. Then 
t\to others came up, oi4 of whomj,temaifled standing, while 
he Knocked down imagmaiy plumsj which were eaten by the 
other man, who seated himselftQii the grouiRl. This over, 
both of the men went and joined the audienc^and the fourth 
man came and went through the same pretence of knocking 
down and eating plums. The interesting point in connection 
with this and many other very similar ceremonies lies in the 
fact that the Alcheringa ancestors are so frequently repre- 
sented as freely eating the animal or plant, from which they 
derive their totemic name.* At the present time the con- 
ditions with regard to this point are markedly different from 
those which evidently obtained in times past. 

During the evening close by the Parra a dense group was 
formed with the older men standing in the centre, and the 

' Iltonka is Ihe fruit of a species of Maisdenia. 

" The performers in each ceremony repiescnl, of course, individuals of the 
totem with which the ceremony is concerned. In this instance each of ihe four 
men represented, for the time being, a plum-tree man. 



younger ones on the outside. In this way, as closely packed 
as possible, they sang t<^ether for some two hours, the group 
as a whole swaying backwards and forwards without ceasing. 
Then towards midnight they all sat down, and in this posi- 
tion, still closely packed together, they continued singing till 
between one and two o'clock, when the old men decorated 
the heads of the younger men with twigs and leaves of an 


Eremophila shrub. This material, which is worn from now 
till the end of the ceremonies, is called weila. The old 
men who did the decorating were Urliara, who had alreadj- 
been through the Engwura, and to each one of these, four or 
five young men had been allotted by the presiding old man. 
There were no restrictions as to the relationship of the men ; for 
example, a Panunga man could take charge of men of any 
class, but, until the end of the ceremonies, the young men who 



had been decorated became ab-moara to the man who had 
charge of them, and he to them. They might not either 
speak to, or in the presence of, the old man without his 

From this time on right to the very end of the ceremonies 
the young men were called collectively by the name lllpong- 
wttrra, which means not smeared with grease or colour ; 
and with this the second phase of the Engwura came to 
an end. 


Initiation Ceremonies {continued) 


Thild phase : Changes occurring in cuafoms — The ceremonies refer to times when 
customs in r^aid to such matters as marriage restrictions, cannibalism, etc., 
were different from those of the present day — The Engwuia may serve both 
lo maintain customs and also as a means of introducing changes — Further 
examination of Churinga — Ortineha, or "devil-devil" men — Arunta have no 
conception of a perm unently malevolent spirit — Final handing over of Churitkga 
— Rubbing of Churinga to promote grovjlh of beard — The Erathipa stone and 
tradition — Tradition concerning wild cat men changing into plum tree men 
eating plums — Performance of a special ceremony concerned with the frog 
totem — Association of particular obiects, such as Nurlunjas and Churinga, 
with particular animals and plants — liourth phase : lUfengwurra sent out into 
the hush — They have to bring in food for the old men —Fire-throwing in the 
women's camp at morning and night when the lilpongwurra go out and return 
— Ceremony representing the cooking of a man — The last fire-throwing in the 
women's camp— Cutting down the tree to form the Kaiiaua — Throwing fire- 
sticks over the women in their camp at nighl — The^B;*(/f»ii(miceremony — 
Taking the Ambilytrikirta to the women's camp— Possible explanation of 
these ceremonies— Decoration and erection of the Kauaua — Putting the 
Ittpangmurra on the fire out in the bush — Painting the backs of the lUpoiig- 
■wurra — Visit to the women's camp and the placing of the lUpengwurra on 
futcs — Return to the Engwuia ground — The newly-made Urliara remain out 
in the bush — Fifth phase : Women's dance — Ceremonies concerned with 
zemoval of the ban of silence between men who are ai-moara to each other — 
Ceremonies of aralkalilima and anainlhaliliaia. 

Apart from the fact that the young men had now received 
a definite name, and that each one had been made ab-moara 
to some older man under whose charge he was, the details of 
the third phase were closely similar to those described as 
characteristic of the second. The same examination of 
Churinga was carried on, and ceremonies of the same nature 
as the preceding ones were enacted day after day and night 
after night. The sustained interest was very remarkable 
when it is taken into account that mentally the Australian 
native is merely a child, who acts, as a general rule, on the spur 

Y 2 



of the moment. On this occasion they were gathered together 
to perform a series of ceremonies handed down from the Alche- 
ringa, which had to be performed in precisely the same way 
in which they had been in the Alcheringa. Everything was 
ruled by precedent ; to change even the decoration of a per- 
former would have been an unheard-of thing ; the reply, " it was 
so in the Alcheringa," was considered as perfectly satisfactory 
by way of explanation. At the same time despite the natural 
conservatism of the native mind, changes have come over the 
tribe since the times when their ancestors lived, to whom the 
ceremonies now being dealt with refer. For example, not a 
few of them deal with the existence of cannibalism, and 
though this may not yet have been wholly discarded, still 
it is not practised amongst the Arunta except to a very slight 
extent, whereas, if there be anything in the traditions, it must, 
in the Alcheringa, have been largely practised. Then again, 
the marriage customs are very different from those with which 
we are brought into contact in the ceremonies concerned with 
these Alcheringa people. We have already had occasion in 
another place to deal with this question, meanwhile it may be 
said here that the Engwura, from this point of view, appears 
to serve two distinct purposes, or rather it always serves one, 
and might serve a second. In the first place its main result 
is undoubtedly to preserve unchanged certain customs, and to 
hand on a knowledge of past history, or rather tradition, from 
generation to generation, but in the second place, and to a 
much lesser extent, it may serve as the vehicle for the intro- 
duction of changes. 

The third phase was ushered in by the examination of a 
large number of Churinga which were brought in from the 
witchetty grub storehouse in the Heavitree gap, which 
cuts through the Macdonnell Ranges, and forms a passage 
from north to south, for the Todd River. They were under 
the chaise of the Alatunja, who specially invited his 
Gammona, Umbima and Ikuntera, to come up and take part 
in the proceedings. The Churinga, wrapped up in bundles, 
round which large quantities of human hair-string were tied, 
were laid on shields in the bed of the creek, and the men sat 
round them, those of the Panunga and Bulthara divi 



occupying the inner circle, and the Purula and Kumara men 
the outer circle. This arrangement was due to the fact that 


the witchetty grub totem is mainly composed of men belonging 
to the Panunga and Bulthara moiety. 



The Churinga having been solemnly spread out, the 
Alatunja of the local totem took one up, and, having ground 
up and placed on it some red ochre, the old Alatunja of the 
Undoolya locality leaned over and pressed down on the 
Churinga the hand of the son of the first-named ; then he 
rubbed the young man's hand up and down upon it while he 
whispered to him, telling him to whom the Churinga had 
belonged, who the dead man was, and what the marks on the 
Churinga meant. Then it was passed on to a Purula who was 
the young man's Umbima, and who was seated on the outside 
of the group. This over, a second Churinga was treated in 
just the same way. Special attention was paid to the 
Churinga nanja of one of the brothers of the local Alatunja 
who had died a few years ago. It was first of all passed on 
to a younger brother of the Alatunja who slightly rubbed it. 
Then it was pressed against the stomach of another younger 
brother, who kept it in this position for a minute or two while 
he and others literally shed tears over it, amidst perfect 
silence on the part of all the others present. Then two other 
Churinga nanja of dead men were examined, rubbed over 
with red ochre, and their meaning explained in whispers by a 
Bukhara man to a Purula, who was his son-in-law. After an 
hour had been thus passed, a particular Churinga belonging 
to an Oruncha or " devil-man " was shown, and on the 
production of this there was, for the first and only time, 
general though subdued laughter. These Oruncha of the 
Alcheringa are always the source of a certain amount of mirth, 
ivhether it be during the examination of their Churinga or on 
the occasion of the performance of ceremonies concerned with 
them. The particular individual whose Churinga was now 
examined has given his name, Chauritchi, to a rocky hill 
close to Alice Springs where he is reported to have gone 
into the earth and where his spirit still lives. Though they 
laugh at him when they are gathered tt^ether in daylight, at 
night-time things are very different, and no native would 
venture across this hill after dusk. It will be noticed that 
there is something very different in the case of these Oruncha 
individuals from what obtains in the case of other people of 
the Alcheringa. The most striking point is that >whereas, 



like every one else, they had their Churinga and spirit part 
associated with it, yet they never formed any Oknanikilla ,- 

each one still inhabits the same spot in spirit form where, in 
the Alcheringa, he went down into the earth, but he never 
undei^oes reincarnation. He is regarded as a more or less 



mischievous creature, a kind of Bogey-man who, if met with 
when out alone in the dark, will carry off his victim into the 
earth. Partly, no doubt, the idea is a creation of men of old to 
act as a wholesome check upon women who might be prone, 
without the fear of some such mysterious and invisible creature, 
to wander away under cover of the darkness from their 
domestic hearth, and it does undoubtedly act as a strong 
deterrent to any wandering about at night by men and women 
alike. There are times when the Oruncha will take a man 
down into the ground and transform him into a medicine 
man. On the whole the Oruncha may be r^arded as a 
mischievous spirit who will in some way harm those whom he 
comes across in places where they should not be, that is where 
they know they are likely to meet him if they venture alone 
after dark, rather than as a distinctly malevolent spirit whose 
object is at all times to injure them. Of such a permanent 
malevolent spirit, the Arunta do not appear to have formed a 
conception ; in fact the place of such an individual is largely 
supplied by their beliefs with regard to the Kurdaitcha and 
various forms of magic. 

Some few days later the ceremony of handing over the 
lizard Churinga to their new owner, the initial stage in 
connection with which has already been described, was 
completed. After the Alatunja, who had previously had 
charge of them, had brought them into camp, they were 
placed in the store of the Panunga and Bukhara men at one 
end of the Engwura ground. Together with a lai^e number 
of others, perhaps as many as two hundred in all, they were 
again brought down into the bed of the creek where the old 
men were assembled, only three of the younger men being 
allowed to be present. The others were sent out of camp. 
After the usual whisperings, handing round of the Churinga 
and rubbing of them with red ochre, they were placed on a 
shield and handed over to their new possessor. Then all the 
old men in turn came and pressed their foreheads against the 
jraung man's stomach, he for some time trying, or pretending 
to try, to prevent the very old Oknirabata—th.^ Alatunja of 
the Undoolya group— from doing so. This ceremony is a 
somewhat striking one, and is evidently a form of recognition 


of the new position held by the young man, who with the 
presentation of the Churinga became the rect^[nised head of 
the local group of lizard people. 

There was amongst the Churinga one curious one which 
was also remarkable as being the only stone one present at 
the Engwura, the reason of which is to be associated with the 
fact that they are brought mainly with the object of using 
them during the ceremonies, and for this purpose stone ones 
are not suitable. This special one was elongate-oval in shape 
and about six inches in length. From end to end ran a band 
of black charcoal, an inch in width, the part on either side of 
this being coloured red with ochre. The Churinga was that 
of a Jerboa-rat totem, the rat in question having especially 
long whiskers which were represented by the black band, and 
it is supposed that the rubbing of this Churinga on the chin 
of a young man is very beneficial in promoting the growth of 
hair on the part touched. In connection with this, it may be 
noted that the length and fulness of the beard is a striking 
feature in the members of the Arunta and other tribes of 
Central Australia. 

Though the Churinga are now in the keeping of the 
lizard man he is not supposed to have absolute possession of 
them until he has, at some future date, made a present of a 
■considerable quantity of hair-string to the Alatunja of the 
Unchalka or little grub group who took charge of, and 
preserved them from harm upon the temporary extinction of 
the old lizard group. 

As already said, the days and nights during the third phase 
were spent very much in the same manner as they were 
during the second, so that we will only describe here, without 
reference to the order in which they occurred, as this was a 
matter of no importance, the more important and typical of 
the ceremonies. 

Two ceremonies were concerned with the Omnc/ia or, as 
the natives call them, the OrunclurHva, the word ertwa 
meaning man. The first of these was the Quabara Oruncha 
of Kulparra, a place now called the Deep Well about fiftj- 
miles to the south of Alice Springs. The ceremony belongs 
to a Purula man, and the two performers were respectively a 



I'urula man of the " native pheasant " ' totem, and a Kumara 
man of the kangaroo totem. Each man wore, fixed into his 

head-dress, four Churinga, while his body was decorated with 

' Ltipoa Ktllala, the mound binl. 

; Google 


bands of charcoal edged as usual with white down, a bunch 
of eagle-hawk feathers being fixed into his waist-band in the 
middle of his back. When decorated they were led on to 
the Parra ground with the usual high knee action. Then old 
men, from the neighbourhood of the locality to which the 
ceremony belongs, sat down and b^an beating boomerangs 
on the ground while the two performers ran backwards and 
forwards on all fours, sometimes chasing one another, some- 
times turning round face to face and pretending to growl 
and to frighten one another. After acting in a waj' which 
much amused the audience for about five minutes, the two 
Oruncha came and laid themselves down in front of the old 
men, whom, after getting up again, they embraced. 

The second of the ceremonies was the Quabara Oruncha of 
Chauritchi, the latter being the native name for Alice Springs. 
This ceremony belongs to the local Alatunja, and the most 
remarkable feature connected with it was the enormous head- 
dress formed of twigs of Cassia bush bound round with yards 
and yards of human hair-string so as to form a solid mass 
two feet si.K inches in diameter, the whole structure weighing 
at least thirty pounds. It was, as usual in the case of all 
the head-dresses, built up on the performer's head, and, as can 
be imagined, the strain upon the muscles of his neck must have 
been severe, for though the actual performance only lasted a 
few minutes the preparation for it occupied two hours. The 
front of the head-dress and the face were covered with a mass 
of white down ; a band of blue-gray wad ' ornamented his 
shoulders and chest, and in the middle was joined to another 
which ran round above the waist, each having an edging of 
white down. From the front of the head-dress projected two 
sticks, each of which was nearly a yard in length, and was 
covered with rings of down. In the noonday heat of mid- 
summer, with the sun shining straight down so that you sat, 
or stood, on your own shadow, the remarkable and weighty 
head-dress must have been particularly trying to wear. The 
performer sat down on a heap of small gum tree boughs and 

' Wad is an oxide of manganese, which when jmwdetetl up produces a bluish- 
gRiy powder, and is rubbed on the body for decorative purposes. The wad is 
obtained from a special spot near to Henbuiy «n the Finke River. 



b^an swaying about from side to side and brushing flies off 
with little twigs. At the same time he kept constantly peer- 
ing about as if he were on the look-out for some one ; every 


The head-dress represcnls h man whom the Oruncha has killed. The iwo hums 
nre pointing sticks. 

now and then he would crouch down amongst the boughs as 
if to gather himself together into as small a space as possible ; 



when he did so, the back view was a somewhat comical one, 
consisting mainly of a glimpse of a large bunch of eagle hawk 
feathers, and beyond this the great disc-shaped head-dress. 
The idea was that he was in search of men with the object of 
catching and eating them. When caught, his custom was to 
carry them on bis head until they were wanted for consump- 
tion, and the massive head-dress was supposed to represent a 
man whom he had kilted and was thus carrying about with him. 

;. 67— 

The two sticks in the front projecting like two horns are 
somewhat suggestive. They are simply pointing sticks — 
called in this instance inwunina — which the Oruncha uses 
for the purpose of pointing at and killing his prey, and the 
thought suggested itself that possibly the two traditional 
horns of the devil, as he is pictured amongst more highly 
civilised peoples, may, sometimes at all events, owe their origin 
to an early belief in the efficacy of pointing sticks like those 
at present actually used amongst various races of savage 
people, such as the Australian natives. 



This particular Oruncha went in the Alcheringa down into 
the hill close to Alice Springs, which is still spoken of as the 
Mirra cruncJia, that is the Oruncha's camp, and he is supposed 
at times to come out and seize upon men and women who 
are wandering about after dusk. Every now and again he 
will take some man down into the earth, and then, after a 
time, the man is found in a dazed condition, but transformed 
by the Oruncha into a medicine man. 

In connection with the Quabara Iruntarinia Unjiamba of a 
place called Apera-na-unkumna, a somewhat remarkable 
Nurtunja was used. This was a ceremony which had been im- 
parted to a Purula man by the Iruntarinia of the locality named. 
It was now being presented by its owner to another man of the 
totem with which it was concerned ; and, as this was the first 
time on which it had been performed in this locality, etiquette 
prescribed that only men of the Purula and Kumara moiety 
should be present during the preparation, all others remaining 
at some distance from the creek. The Nuttunja consisted of 
a long spear, grass stalks, and hair-string bound together 
in the usual way, but in addition, from near to the upper end, 
there hung down a shorter pole about five feet long. Each 
part was decorated with elongate lines of pink and white 
down instead of the customary circles which are so character- 
istic of the usual large Nurtunja. The large pole indicated a 
Hakea tree, and the small one a young tree, and it was 
supposed to be identical in form with a double Nurtunja 
which two Alcheringa Unjiamba men carried about with 
them in their wanderings. 

Another ceremony associated with a remarkable tradition 
was the Quabara Ambaquerka of Erathipa. This was in the 
possession of the Alatunja of Alice Springs, and at his 
request was performed by a Fanunga man. The performer is 
supposed to be a woman with a newly-born child, the latter 
being represented by an oval mass of twigs and grass stalks 
encased in hair-string and down, about two feet in length by 
one foot in diameter. The whole was covered with close-set 
bands of white down, two black spots being left to indicate 
the eyes. The performer held the supposed child in his 
hands while he sat down swaying about and quivering, the 



other men dancing and singing as they ran round him. 
When it was over the oval mass was pressed against the 
stomach of the Alatunja, who then took and pressed it 

against that of the old Purula man who presided over the 

The tradition with which this is associated is as follows : 
In the Jocalitj' of a plum-tree totem about fifteen miles S.S.E, 



of Alice Springs, is a special rounded stone which projects 
from the ground amidst mulga scrub for about a height of 
three feet This stone is called Eratkipa. In the Alcheringa 
a man named Inta-tir-kaka, who belonged to the plum-tree 
totem and was not an Ulpmerka, came from a place called 
Kulla-ratha, a fine waterhole out to the north of Mount 
Heuglin, in the western Macdonnells, and, crossing a de- 
pression in the latter range close to Mount Gillen, he 
proceeded to Uk-ang-wulla, which means the hollow or hole, 
and lies close to Quiurnpa, where he found a Nurtunja 
erected but could not see any people to whom it belonged, 
so he proceeded to appropriate it ; but, when he tried to 
pull it up out of the ground, all that he could do was to 
slightly loosen it; seeing that he could not secure it whole 
he broke it off at the butt and down it tumbled with a loud 
crash. The Nurtunja was the property of a plum-tree 
woman, named Unkara, who, with her little baby boy, was 
out hunting for the plums on which they fed. She had 
originated at this spot and had lived alone here, having 
nothing to do with the plum-tree Ulpmerka men who lived not 
far away. When she heard the crash she came quickly back 
to her camp, and there she saw what had taken place and 
was greatly grieved ; as the natives say, her bowels yearned 
after her Nurtunja. She put her baby boy into the hollow 
where the Nurtunja was broken off, just below the surface, 
and, leaving with him a large number of Churinga, went in 
pursuit of the thief. The boy went into the ground, taking 
with him the store of Churinga, and the Eratkipa stone arose 
to mark the spot, and forms the centre of an Oknanikilla of 
the plum-tree totem, the stone being, of course, the home of 
all the many spirit individuals, one of whom was associated 
with each of the Churinga. 

The women went straight up into the sky and, following 
the course taken by Intatirkaka, she alighted at a place 
called Oki-ipirta where he had camped, from here she walked 
on towards the north-west, and then again went up into the 
sky and did not descend until she reached Kulla-ratha, from 
which place the man had come originally, and to which he 
had returned. Here she found a large number of plum-tree 



people, but could not see her Nurtunja because the thief had 
placed it right in the middle of a big group of Nurtunjas 
which belonged to the party. In grief at not being able to 
recover it she sat down and died. 

However, to return to the Erathipa stone. There is on 
one side of it a round hole through which the spirit children 
are supposed to be on the look-out for women who may 
chance to pass near, and it is firmly believed that visiting the 
stone will result in conception. If a young woman has to 

pass near to the stone and does not wish to have a child she 
will carefully disguise her youth, distorting her face and 
walking with the aid of a stick. She will bend herself double 
like a very old woman, the tones of whose voice she will 
imitate, saying, " Don't come to me, I am an old woman." 
Above the small round hole a black line is painted with char- 
coal, and this is always renewed by any man who happens to 
visit the spot It is called Iknula, and a black line such as 
this, and called by the same name, is always painted above the 



eye of a newly-born child, as it is supposed to prevent 
sickness. Not only may the women become pregnant by 
visiting the stone, but it is believed that by performing a very 
simple ceremony, a malicious man may cause women and 
even children who are at a distance to become so. All that 
has to be done is for the man to go to the stone by himself, 
clear a space of ground around it, and then, while rubbing it 
with his hands, to mutter the words " Arakutja wunka aknirra 
unta munja ariichika," which means, literally translated," Plenty 
of young women, you look and go quickly." If, again, a man 
wishes to punish his wife for supposed unfaithfulness, he may 
go to the stone and, rubbing it, mutter the words " Arakutja 
tana yingalla ivmpiwuma ertwa airpinna alimila munja 
ichakirakitcha" which means, " That woman of mine has 
thrown me aside and gone with another man, go quickly and 
hang on tightly ; " meaning that the child is to remain a long 
time in the woman, and so cause her death. Or again, if a 
man and his wife both wish for a child, the man^ties his hair- 
girdle round the stone, rubs it, and mutters, " Arakutja thing- 
unawa unta koanilla arapirima" which means, " The woman 
my wife you (think) not good, look." 

The word Erathipa means a child, though it is seldom used 
in this sense, the word Ambaquerka being most often 
employed. Similar Erathipa stones are found at other spots. 
There is one near to Hermannsburg on the Finke River, 
another at the west end of the Waterhouse Range, and 
another near to Running Waters on the Finke. 

Another ceremony called the Quabara AnthJnna of Arimurla 
was associated with a curious and rather complicated tradition. 
Anthinna is the opossum totem, and Arimurla is a place 
now called Winnecke's depot, by reason of its having been 
used as such during early days ; it is in reality merely a gorge 
leading through the rocky ranges which form the eastern 
continuation of the Macdonnells. The ceremony refers to 
two Purula women of the opossum totem. They both 
originated at and never left Arimurla. Each of thejperformers 
had a curious T-shaped Nurtunja on his head. From the 
cross-bars of each there were suspended Churinga which had 
once belonged to the two women. 



When the ceremony, which consisted of the usual swaying 
to and fro on the part of the performers, and of the running 

round and round of the other men, was concluded, we were 
told the following. In the Alcheringa a party of wild cat people 
who, unlike the other wild cat parties, consisted for the main- 

Z 2 



part of Pulthara and Panunga, started from near Wilyunpa 
out to the east of Charlotte Waters. They journeyed on to 
the north, halting and forming Oknanikilla at various places. 
After a time they came close to Arimurla, but passed by 
\vithout seeing the two Purula opossum women who were 

sitting down there. Going on they met a man who had come 
down from the salt water country far away to the north ; he 
was of the same totem as themselves, but lived alone and was 
called ainabitta, a contemptuous name applied to a man 



who is given to interfering with women. Him they killed, 
and to the present day a stone in Paddy's creek at a spot 
called Achilpa Itulka represents the slain man. Having done 
this, they walked on, eating Hakea and driving mosquitoes 
before them, and, when they could not get water, drinking 
their own blood. At a place called Irri-mi-wurra they all 
died, but sprang up again as Ulpmerka, that is uncircumcised 
boys, and after that they went on eating plums. Reference 
to this will again be made when dealing with the question of 
the eating of the totem. In this, as in not a few of the 
traditions, we see that the eating of the totemic animal or 
plant seems to be a special feature, and one to which attention 
is particularly drawn. 

After eight days had been spent in the performance of 
ceremonies, it was evident that an important change in the 
proceedings was about to take place. Under the direction of 
the leader of the Engwura the small gum boughs, which had 
hitherto decorated the top of the Parra, were removed, and the 
mound was left bare. All the young men were ordered away 
from the ground, and spent the greater part of the day in the 
bed of the river under the chaise of the Alatunja of Alice 
Springs. Meanwhile, close by the Parra, a group of elder 
men who were already Urliara were assembled. All classes 
were represented, and the next five hours were spent in 
preparations for an important ceremony called the Quabara 
Unchichera of Imanda. At Imanda, which is known to white 
men as the Bad Crossing on the Hugh River, is an important 
Unchichera or frog totem centre, and during the Engwura a 
large number of ceremonies connected with this were enacted 
as the leader came from this locality, and, though not himself 
belonging to the frog totem, he had inherited a large number 
of ceremonies concerned with this and the wild cat totem 
from his father. He performed the ceremony himself. On 
his head was a large somewhat flat helmet made in the usual 
way, and completely covered with concentric circles of 
alternate pink and white down. These represented the roots 
of a special gum tree at Imanda. The whole of his back and 
chest as far down as the waist was a complete mass of white 
spots, each of which was encircled by white down ; they were 



s sizes, and indicated frogs of different ages ; on the 
inner side of each thigh were white lines representing the legs 
of fully-grown frogs. On his head he wore a large fr(^ 
Churinga, five feet in length, decorated with bands of down 
and tipped with a bunch of owl feathers. All around the 
base of this were arranged tufts of black eagle-hawk feathers. 

each fastened on to a stick, so that the>- radiated from the 
head-dress. About twenty strings, each of them two feet in 
length and made of opossum fur-string, had been covered 
with pink and white down, and ornamented at one end with 
tufts of the black and white tail tips of the rabbit-kangaroo. 
These were suspended all round from the head so as almost 



completely to hide the face, which was itself enveloped in a 
mass of down. The Churinga represented a celebrated tree 
at Imanda, and the pendant strings its small roots. When all 


was ready a shallow pit about a yard in diameter was scooped 
out in the sand, and in this the performer squatted with a 
short stick in his hands. Except for the presence of the 



latter, it was difficult to tell that the elaboiate decoration 
concealed from view a man. 

When he was seated in the pit, he sent out three old men 
who were Urliara across the river. Two of them carried 
.small Churinga attached to the end of hair-string. The man 
who did not carry one went behind the spot where the young 
men were gathered tc^ether, while the other two went one to 
each side. Then the sound of the bull-roarer was heard, as 
the Churinga were whirled round and round, and, amidst 
much shouting and excitement, the young men were driven in 
a body across the river and up the opposite bank on to the 
Engwura ground. Running through the scrub which bordered 
the river, they suddenly came in sight of the performer, who 
was slightly swaying his body from side to side and digging 
the earth up with the stick in his hands. For a moment, 
when first he came in view, the young men halted and lifted 
up their hands as if in astonishment, and then driven up by 
the three Urliara men they ran up to and circled round and 
round the performer shouting, " wha! wha! " at the top of their 
voices. The old men stood to one side, and the two with the 
Churinga went round and round the young men as if to drive 
them in as close as possible. This went on for about three 
minutes, when one of the younger men, who was a Purula 
and the son of a dead man of the fri^ totem of Imanda, laid his 
hands on the shoulders of the performer, who then ceased 
moving, and the ceremony was over. After a short pause the 
decorated man got up, and first of all embraced the young 
man who had stopped him, and then went round and did the 
same to various old Bukhara and Panunga men, and touched 
with a piece of white down the navel of the old Purula man 
of the white bat totem, whose locality lay close to that with 
which the ceremony was associated.' Then he sat down and 
called the young Purula man up to assist him in removing 
the decorations. 

After each ceremony the down is carefully removed from 
the body, though naturally a not inconsiderable portion ad- 

' Imanda itself Is the great centre of the frog (otem ; but occupying > strip aloi^ 
the soulhem bank of the Hugh Kivcr, close by, is a local centre of (he Unchipera 
or small bat totem, while opposite to this on the north bank of the river is a centre 
of the Elkinlera or large white btil totem. 



herea so firmly that it must be rubbed off, and so each per- 
formance means the loss of a certain amount. As soon also 

flC. 74.— CEREMONV 

as ever a Churinga or a Nurtunja has once been used, the 
decorations are taken off. No Ntiriunja is used more than 
once ; even if two ceremonies follow close upon one another. 



each of them requiring one, a fresh one is made for each. The 
reason of this is that any particular Nurlunja represents and 
is symbolic of one 
particular object with 
which the ceremony 
is concerned, it may 
be a gum-tree, a 
Hakea, an emu or a 
frc^, and, when once 
that particular Nur- 
lunja has been used 
in a ceremony, it is 
henceforth symbolic 
of one, and only one 
thing, though, so far 
as its appearance and 
structure are con- 
cerned, it may be pre- 
cisely similar to a jVar- 
lunja, which means 
something totally dif- 
ferent. Suppose, for 
example, that, as on 
the last occasion, a 
lai^ Churinga or a 
Nitrtunja represents 
a gum-tree, then in 
the mind of the native 
it becomes so closely 
associated with that 
object that it could 
not possibly mean 
anything else ; and if a 
precisely similar Chur- 
inga or Nurtunja were 
Fiu. 75.— CEREMONV OF THE FBo-; TOTEM wantcd an hourafter- 
OF iMANDA. wards to represent, 

say an emu, then a new 
one must be made. 



The reason for the showing of the performance just de- 
scribed, was that on the previous day the young Purula man 
already referred to had gone out into the bush and had 
brought in a present of game in the form of euro, as an 
offering to the older man who had chaise of the Unchichera 
ceremonies of Imanda. This gift of food is called cfyauarilia, 
and when bringing it in he had told the old man that there 
was food waiting for him along the creek. This remark was 
perfectly understood as a request, though this must not be 
made in any more direct way, that he should be shown some 
ceremony connected with his dead father's totem. With this 
the third phase of the Engwura came to an end. 

The fourth phase was a very well-marked one, as with it 
were ushered in the series of fire ordeals which are especially 
associated with the Engwura. The young men had already 
had by no means an easy time of it, but during the next 
fortnight they were supposed to be under still stricter disci- 
pline, and to have to submit themselves to considerable dis- 
comfort in order to prove themselves worthy of graduating 
as Urtiara. 

Just at sunrise the Illpongwurra were collected together 
close to the Parra. The leader of the Engwura had meanwhile 
appointed three elder men, who were already Urliara, to look 
after them during the day. About a dozen of the older men 
had provided themselves with small Churinga, and with a 
great amount of shouting, and amidst the strange weird roar 
and screech of the bulf-roarers, no two of which sounded 
alike, the Illpongwurra were driven in a body away from the 
camp. Each man amongst them carried his shield, spear, and 
boomerang, for it was their duty now to go out into the 
bush all day hunting game for the benefit of the old men 
who stayed in camp performing ceremonies. The idea was to 
test still further the endurance of the young men and their 
obedience to their elders. Out in the bush they are not sup- 
posed to eat any of the game which they catch, but must 
bring it all in to the old men who may, or may not, give them 
a share of it when they return to camp. Whether this rule is 
rigidly adhered to on the part of the younger men may per- 
haps be doubted, the temptation offered by the sight of a fat 



little wallaby must be very strong to a full-grown young man 
who has not been having too much to eat for some three 
or four weeks past, and though old men go out in charge, it 
can be scarcely possible to keep a strict watch over all of the 

Avoiding on this, the first morning of the new departure in 
the ceremonies, the women's camp, which lay out of sight of 
the Engwura ground on the other side of the river, the 
Illpongwurra were taken out through a defile amongst the 
ranges on the west side of the camp. As the day wore on 
it became evident that there was unusual excitement and stir 
in the women's camp. One of the older ones had been in- 
formed that the Illpongwurra would return in the evening, 
and that they must be ready to receive them. She had 
been through this part of the ceremony before, and knew 
what had to be done, but the great majority of the women 
required instructing. About five o'clock in the evening all the 
women and children gathered together on the flat stretch of 
ground on the east side of the river. The Panunga and 
Bulthara separated themselves from the Purula and Kumara. 
Each party collected grass and sticks with which to make a 
fire, the two being separated by a distance of about one 
hundred yards. A man was posted on the top of a hill 
overlooking the Engwura ground on the west, and just before 
sunset he gave the signal that the Illpongwurra were ap- 
proaching. They stopped for a short time before coming 
into camp, at a spot at which they deposited the game secured, 
and where also they decorated themselves with fresh twigs 
and leaves of the Eremophila bush. These were placed 
under the head-bands, so that they drooped down over the 
forehead, under the arm-bands, and through the nasal septum. 
Then, forming a dense square, they came out from the defile 
amongst the ranges. Several of the Urliara who were carrying 
Churinga met them, some going to either side, and some 
going to the rear of the square. Then commenced the 
swinging of the bull-roarers. The women on the tip-toe of 
excitement lighted their fires, close to which were supplies of 
long grass stalks and dry boughs. The Illpongwurra were 
driven forwards into the bed of the river, pausing every now 




and then as if reluctant to come any further on. Climbing 
up the eastern bank, they halted about twenty yards from 
the first group of women, holding their shields and boughs 
of Eremophila over their heads, swaying to and fro and 
shouting loudly " zvhrr! wkrr !" The Panunga and Bulthara 
women to whom they came first stood in a body behind their 
fire, each woman, with her arms bent at the elbow and the 
open hand with the palm uppermost, moved up and down on 
the wrist as if inviting the men to come on, while she called 
out " kutta, kutta, kutta" keeping all the while one leg stiff, 
while she bent the other and gently swayed her body. This 
is a very characteristic attitude and movement of the women 
during the performance of certain ceremonies in which they 
take a part After a final pause the IHpongwurra came close 
up to the women, the foremost amongst whom then seized 
the dry grass and boughs, and setting fire to them, threw 
them on to the heads of the men, who had to shield them- 
selves, as best they could, with their boughs. The men with 
the bull-roarers were meanwhile running round the Illpong- 
■wurra and the women, whirling them as rapidly as possible ; 
and after this had gone on for a short time, the Illpongwurra 
suddenly turned and went to the second group of women, 
followed, as they did so, by those of the first, and here the 
same performance was again gone through. Suddenly once 
more the men wheeled round and, followed by both parties of 
women who were now throwing fire more vigorously than 
ever, they ran in a body towards the river. On the edge of 
the bank the women stopped, turned round and ran back, 
shouting as they did so, to their camp. The Illpongwurra 
crossed the river bed and then ran on to the Engwura ground 
where, sitting beside the Parra, was a man decorated for the 
performance of an Unjiamba ceremony. Still holding their 
shields, boomerangs.and boughs of Eremophila, they ran round 
and round him shouting "rcAfl.' wka !" Then came a moment's 
pause, after which all the men commenced to run round the 
Parra itself, halting in a body, when they came to the north 
end to shout " wha ! wha .' whrr ! " more loudly than before. 
When this had been done several times they stopped, and 
then each man laid down his shield and boomerangs 



and placed his boughs of Eremophila so that they all 
formed a line on the east side of and parallel to the 
Parra, at a distance of two yards from this. When this was 
done the Illpongwurra came and first of all sat down in a row, 
so that they just touched the opposite side of the Parra to 
that on which the boughs were placed. In less than a 
minute's time they all lay down, in perfect silence, upon 
their backs, quite close to one another, with each man's head 
resting on the Parra} All save one or two old men moved 
away, and these few stayed to watch the Illpongwurra. For 
some time not a sound was to be heard. None of them might 
speak or move without the consent of the old men in whose 
charge they were. By means of gesture language one or two- 
of them asked for permission to go to the river and drink at 
a small soakage which had been made in the sand. In a 
short time they returned, and then it was after dark before 
they were allowed to rise. The sudden change from the 
wild dance round the performer and the Parra, accompanied 
by the loud shouting of the men whose bodies were half 
hidden by thick clouds of dust, which the strong light of 
the setting sun illuminated, was most striking. 

About nine o'clock the men got up and began the usual 
singing, running sideways along by the Parra, shouting loudly 
as they did so. Shortly before midnight a curious ceremony 
was performed, which was associated with certain Oruncha 
men of Imanda. There were four performers, and the 
ceremony was divided into two parts. Three men were 
engaged in the first and more important scene. A long hole, 
just big enough to hold a man's body, but not deep enough 
to conceal it, was scooped out In this, at full length, one of 
the men lay while a second knelt down over his legs and the 
third knelt at the head end. These two were supposed to be 
Oruncha men, engaged in baking the man in the earth oven, 
and each of them with two boomerangs imitated the action of 
basting him and of raking the embers up over his body, whilst 
he himself imitated admirably the hissing and spluttering 
noise of cooking meat. After a few minutes the three got up 

' The; have to lie down so that the Parra |is between them and the women's 
camp, and the lattei must always lie to the east of the Porta, 



and joined the audience, and then out of the darkness — for the 
fire beside the Parra served only to light up the ceremonial 
ground-— came a decorated man who was supposed to repre- 
sent an Alcheringa man of the frog totem. He moved about 
from spot to spot, sniffing as if he detected the smell of 
cooking, but could not detect where it came from. After a 
minute or two he joined the audience and the performance 

There was not much rest to be had that night ; the 
Illpongwurra lay down again while the older men close to 
them kept up an incessant singing, and at two o'clock all 
were called up to witness the performance of a ceremony of 
the wild cat totem, in which three men took part, who were 
supposed to be performing an ordinary dancing festival or 
altkerta in the Alcheringa Just at daybreak another cere- 
mony was ready, which was again connected with the frc^ 
totem of Imanda. It was performed by one of the oldest 
men present, the oid white bat man, and he was decorated to 
represent a particular tree at Imanda, which suddenly appeared 
full-grown on the spot, where an Alcheringa man of the frog 
totem went into the ground ; it became the Nanja tree of the 
spirit part of him which remained behind associated with his 

It was now getting daylight. The leader decided upon 
three Urliara, who were to accompany and take charge of the 
Illpongwurra during the day, and just after the sun rose they 
were once more driven out of the Engwura ground amidst the 
whirling of bull-roarers. The old men spent the day in camp 
preparing two or three ceremonies, but reserving a somewhat 
elaborate one for the benefit of the Illpongwurra, who were 
driven in at dusk by way of the women's camp, where the fire- 
throwing was repeated. Once more the ceremony of first 
sitting and then lying down by the Parra was enacted ; in 
fact this was carried out every evening during the next two 

At midnight the Illpongwurra were aroused to witness a 
ceremony of the white bat totem. Eleven men — the greatest 
number which we have seen taking part Jn any one of these 
sacred ceremonies — were decorated. Ten of them stood in a 







row facing and parallel to the Parra, and they were all con- 
nected tc^ether by a rope of human hair-string, which was 
decorated with pink and white down, and was passed through 
the hair waist-girdle of each man. Four of them had 
Churinga on their heads, and were supposed to represent 
special gum trees near to Imanda, the long rope being the 
roots of the trees; the other six were supposed to be bats 
resting in the trees. The eleventh man was free from the rope 
and his decoration differed from that of the rest, who were 
ornamented with white pipe-clay and red and white down, 
while he had a long band of charcoal on each side of his body, 
outlined with red down. He began dancing up and dowTi in 
front of the others, holding his body in a stooping position, 
and making all the while a shrill whistling noise, like that 
made by a small bat as it flies backwards and forwards. In 
his hands he carried twigs which he rubbed together. The 
ten men meanwhile moved in line, first to the right and then 
to the left, and with the other man dancing in front of them 
the whole formed a curious scerie in the flickering light of the 
camp fire. At a signal from the leader of the Engwura two 
men went out from the audience, each carrying a long spear 
which was held behind the line of performers so as to touch 
the back of each man — the signal for them to stop. Each 
performer in turn touched with a piece of down first the 
stomach of the leader, and then that of the old white bat man 
to whom the ceremony belonged. 

During the next day ceremonies were held as usual, but 
there was no fire-throwing. At sunrise on the following 
morning the Illpongzvurra were driven out of camp to the 
sound of bull-roarers, by way of the women's camp, where 
they again had fire thrown over them, and in the evening the 
same ceremony was repeated when, just at sunset, they were 
brought in to camp over the ranges on the eastern side. 

The following day saw a slight change in the programme 
The Illpongvmrra were taken out to the west, not going near to 
the women's camp. During the day news was brought in of 
the death of a very old and very celebrated Ratltchawa, or 
medicine man, who lived far away out to the west, We were 
assured that his death was due to the evil magic of a nati\'e 


o.i./cdt, Google 


who lived at a place called Owen Springs on the Hugh 
River — an instance of the fact that the native is quite unable 
to realise death from any natural cause, as the old man in 
question had died simply from senile decay. The sounds of 
wailing came all day long from the camp of the women, 
who struck each other blows with their waddies and cut 
themselves with knives. 

During the day the old men performed ceremonies con- 
cerned with a group of wild cat people who, in the Alcheringa, 
marched out from the south of what is now Oodnadatta, and 
then turned northwards and followed a track which led them 
across the west part of the present Arunta country and through 
certain spots such as Illamurta in the James Range. At 
sunset the Illpongwurra came in from the west and found two 
ceremonies prepared, one belonging to the Bulthara and 
Panunga men, to which they went first After dancing round 
the performer, who represented one of the Ulptnerka of the 
plum-tree totem sitting at the foot of a Nurtunja, they came 
to the second, which belonged to the Purula and Kumara. 
This ceremony was associated with the frog totem of Imanda. 
and was performed by two men, both of whom had Churinga 
on their heads, and had their bodies decorated with patches 
and lines of down representing frogs and roots of trees. First 
the Illpongwurra danced round them and then rushed off to 
the Parra, round and round which they ran, raising clouds 
of dust through which they could be dimly seen. Afler a 
short pause and led by the two frog performers, who had 
removed the Churinga from their heads and carried each two 
boomerangs which they kept striking tt^ether, they ran across 
the river to the women's camp, where the fire-throwing was 
performed in the usual way, after which the Illpongwurra 
came back to camp and lay down beside the Parra. 

When it was dark the men were arranged in a double line 
close to the Parra, and then, with their bodies bent almost 
double, their arms extended in front, and their hands clasped 
together, they moved, first in one direction and then in the 
other, parallel to the length of the mound, stamping on the 
ground as they did so and shouting "wha! wha ! whrr!" 
at the top of their voices. This peculiar dance is one which 




is especially performed by the members of the Ilpirra tribe 
during the course of the Engwura, and as one or two Ilpirra 
men had come down to take part in this Engwura, it was 
danced on this occasion. Just before midnight a wild cat 
ceremony was performed, and it was not until early in the 
morning that the dancing and singing ceased, and the 
Illpongwurra were allowed to take a little rest 

While the Illpongwurra were out in the bush during the 
next day they had to undei^o the first of another form of fire 
ordeal, an account of which will be given subsequently in 
connection with its second performance. In camp the old 
men performed a ceremony called the Ingwuminga inkinj'a, 
which is associated with the emu totem of a spot close to 
Imanda. The Quabara belongs to the Alatunja of the locality, 
and he requested two men, one a Panunga of the snake, and 
the other a Bulthara of the wild cat totem, to perform. Each 
man was decorated with the usual head-dress, the front of 
which, as well as their face and beard, was covered with white 
down, while on each side of the body and extending down to 
the knee, was a line of circular patches of charcoal edged with 
white down. These patches were supposed to represent 
the skulls of slain and eaten men. The two performers were 
called ulthana, that is, the spirits of dead men, and in this 
instance they were supposed to have arisen from the bones of 
two men who had been eaten. They came up from the creek 
and remained at first crouching behind and hidden by a small 
bush from the sight of the old men who gathered by the 
Parra. Then they got up and came on, each of them ttending 
forwards and supporting himself by a stick in either hand, as 
if they were decrepit old men who could hardly walk. For 
some time they prowled about looking first to one side and 
then to the other, as if they were in search of something ; 
and, following an irregular course, came towards the Parra, 
where the old men were seated beating the ground with 

At sunset the Illpongwurra once more came in by way of 
the women's camp where the fire-throwing took place, and 
then, on the Engwura ground, they stood in a long line beside 
the Parra watching the performance of an emu ceremony, 



which consisted in a man decorated with a tall head-dress 
tipped with a bunch of emu feathers and having his body 

The two performers are supposed lo be men who have been killeil and calen and 
come to life aRain. They we in search of their slayers. The circular jxitchea 
represent skulls of eaten men. 

decorated with a large number of parallel lines of white down 
walking backwards and forwards in thejaimless way of an emu. 



That night was at last a quiet one, as every one seemed 
to be getting somewhat exhausted. The next morning a fish 
ceremony was performed, and at sunset when the Illpongwurrn 
came in — this time direct on to the Engwura ground — -a 
ceremony called the Quabara Ungamilliaof Ulkni-wukulla was 
prepared. Ungamillia is the evening star and Ulkni-wukulla 
is the name of a spot close to a gap in the Macdonnetl 
Range, about fifteen miles to the west of Alice Springs. A 
Kumara woman of that totem is supposed to have originated 
and to have lived there during the Alcheringa. The natives 
say, "she had a Nurtunja and lived alone." The woman's name 
was Auadaua, and there is now living near to Bond Springs a 
woman who is the reincarnation of that particular individual. 

The Alice Springs natives have a legend with regard to the 
evening star, according to which it goes down every evening 
into a big white stone at Ulkni-wukulla, where Auadaua sat in 
the Alcheringa. The stone lies in the middle of a tract of 
country, which, just except this spot, belongs to the large 
lizard people. If a woman imagines that a child enters her 
when she is at that stone, then it is one of the spirit 
individuals who belonged to one or other of the Churinga which 
Auadaua carried with her and left behind when she went 
into the earth, where the stone now stands ; and therefore the 
child must belong to the evening star totem ; if, however, she 
thinks it entered her in the bed of the creek close by, then it 
belongs to the lizard totem. 

Late at night an emu ceremony was performed, and the 
whole evening was occupied until midnight in singing by the 
Parra, the old men as before sitting in the midst of a large 
circle of young men, all being huddled close together. On 
occasions such as this the singing is always a monotonous 
repetition of a few phrases such as " the sand hills are good," 
" the Achilpa walked in the Alcheringa to Therierita," " Bind 
the Nurtunja round with rings and rings," and so on ; and it is 
wonderful to see for how many hours they will continue, 
without apparently their spirits flagging or their voices 
becoming husky. 

The next day, as the thermometer registered 114° in the 
shade, it was too hot for even the old men to venture on a 



performance until late in the afternoon, but as a fitting 
close to a warm day the lUpongwurra were brought in by way 


of the women's camp, and on this occasion some of the men 
as well as the women took a share in the fire-throwing, 



scorching more than usual some of the less fortunate men 
who did not efficiently shield themselves with boughs. On 
the Engwura ground an Unjiamba ceremony was performed 
when the Illpangwurra came across the river. 

During the next two days various ceremonies of the 
kangaroo, wild cat and bandicoot totems were performed, the 
most important being a kangaroo one concerned with 
Undiara near to the Finke river at Henbury. The Nurtunja 
for this was made of twenty long spears lashed together and 
reached a height of eighteen feet {Fig, 81). To it were 
attached fourteen Churinga, and the ceremony was performed 
just at daylight. At night-time the singing was mainly con- 
cerned with the putting up of the Kauaua or sacred pole, the 
erection of which marked the close approach of the termination 
of the Engwura, 

In connection with one of the wild cat ceremonies a 
somewhat curious performance took place. The Nurtunja 
used represented one which in the Alcheringa had belonged 
to wild cat men, who had at first stayed for some time close to 
Imanda, and at a later time had carried it away with them 
when they travelled northwards to a place called Arapera, 
with which the ceremony now performed was associated. It 
was made by men of the northern groups belonging to the 
Bulthara and Panunga moiety, and, whilst it was being made, 
no southern men were present When it was completed, but 
some time before the performance of the ceremony for use in 
which it had been made, the northern men called up the 
southern men and showed them the Nurtunja. One special 
man who belonged to the wild cat group near to Imanda, 
from which the Alcheringa Nurtunja had been originally 
taken, was first of all embraced by one or two of the 
northern men, and then led up to the Nurtunja, upon which his 
hands were pressed. Then the leader of the Engwura, who 
also belonged to Imanda, was similarly embraced, and his 
hands placed on the Nurtunja, the idea being, so the natives 
said, to assuage the grief of these men, which was caused by 
the sight of a Nurtunja which had passed away from their 
country to the north and so into the possession of another 
group of wild cat people. 



The ceremonies now became more and more interesting, 
though the exact meaning and significance of some of them 
it is impossible to state. The leader of the Engwura remained 

in camp preparing, with the aid of the men of his locality, a 
special sacred object which consisted of two large wooden 
Churinga, each three feet in length. They were bound 



tt^ether with human hair-string so as to be completely 
concealed from view, and then the upper three quarters were 
surrounded with rings of white down, put on with great care, 
and so closely side by side, that when complete the appearance 
offings was quite lost. The top was ornamented with a tuft 
of owl feathers. When it was made, it was carefully hidden 
in the bed of the creek, so that none of the Illpongwurra 
could see it. This object is called the Ambilyerikirra. 

Whilst this was being made, three of the older men, who 
had been especially associated with the leader throughout the 
ceremonies, had gone out of camp across the hills to the west, 
and had cut down a young gum tree, the trunk of which was 
about nine inches in diameter and some twenty feet in height. 
This was to serve as the Kauaua, and it had to be cut down 
with care, as it was not allowed to touch the ground until it 
was brought on to the Engwura ground. The branches were 
lopped off and it was stripped of its bark, and then, while the 
Illpongwurra were away in the bush, it was carried into camp 
and placed out of sight in the bed of the creek. 

As usual the Illpongwurra returned at sunset, coming in from 
the west without, on this occasion, going to the women's camp, 
as the last fire-throwing ceremony by the women had been held. 
At the northern end of the ground an Ulpmerka ceremony was 
held, and then they came on to the Parra in front of which sat 
the leader of the Engwura, supported on one side by a 
Bulthara, and on the other by a Kumara man ; these two 
were to assist him during the night. Perfect silence was 
maintained while the men placed their branches of Eremophila 
on the long heap which had been gradually accumulating, and 
then came and lay down with their heads upon the Parra, the 
ground in front of which had been dug up by the older men 
during the day, so as to make it softer to lie upon. 

Until shortly before nine o'clock perfect silence was main- 
tained by the Illpongwurra, and even the old men only spoke 
in low whispers, and then very rarely, as they moved quietly 
about, the three men seated in front of the Illpongwurra 
remaining motionless and silent Then a number of small 
fires were made, and bundles of sticks, each one about two 
feet long, were arranged in radiating groups with one end in 



the fire. There would be from four to eight of these radiating 
bundles in each of the fires. When the leader, who remained 
seated, gave the signal, the old men told the Illpongzvurra to 
get up. This they did, while a few of the older men went 
across the river to where the women and children were gathered 
t<^ether, and stood amongst them, holding sticks and boughs 
over their heads, and telling the women to do the same, and 
to protect themselves as best they could. Then at a signal 
from one of the old men on the Engwura ground, each of the 
Illpongwurra took a bundle of fire-sticks, and in a body they 
went towards the river. On the bank they broke up and 
rushed pell-mell across the bed and on up the opposite bank, 
dividing, as they ran across the level stretch between the 
river and the women's camp, into three parties, one going to 
each side of the women and one to the front of them. 
When they were twenty yards away from where the women 
stood, and still running on, all, at a given signal, hurled their 
fire-sticks in rapid succession over the heads of the women and 
children ; hundreds of them whizzed like rockets through the 
darkness ; the loud shouting of the men, the screaming of the 
women and children, and the howling of scores of dogs 
produced a scene of indescribable confusion. Suddenly all 
once more became dark, the men turned back, and, running as 
rapidly as they could, crossed the river and reached the Parra, 
where they again laid themselves down, and once more there 
was perfect silence in the camp. They were not again allowed 
to move under any pretext. While they were away the 
leader, who had remained on the Engwura ground, had taken 
the Ambilyerikirra in his hands, and with his arms linked in 
those of his supporters, he lifted the former up and down 
without any cessation, save for a few seconds at a time, during 
the whole night. \Vhen the Illpongwurra returned from their 
fire-throwing, he was hidden from their view by a group of 
old men who sat down in front of him, so that they did not 
actually see him until morning. 

All night long the Illpongwurra lay silent. One old man 
who had been told ofT'to watch them, walked backwards and 
forwards along the line, now and then joining in the singing 
which, after a short time, was started by the old men, but in 



which the lUpongwurra took no part, or halting in his walk to 
whisper instructions or information about the Alcheringa to 
one or other of the young men. There was very little rest to 
be had, the monotonous rising and falling of the j^w^/^^ri'i^/rw: 
went on without ceasing, as also did the singing of the old 
men, the aged white bat being particularly prominent 
Shortly after five o'clock the Illponguiurra, who had been 
instructed by the old men keeping watch over them what 
they had to do, were roused. Then, for the first time since 
nine o'clock on the previous evening — that was after a stretch 
of eight hours' duration — the leader and the two men sup- 
porting him ceased from lifting the Atnbilyerikirra up and 
down. There was little wonder that they looked tired and 
haggard, but even yet their work was not quite done. Getting 
up, they moved to the north end of the Parra, the two sides- 
men still retaining hold of the leader's arms. The lUpong- 
wurra went to the line of wetta and, having taken boughs of 
this, arranged themselves so as to form a solid square behind 
the leaders. Most of the older men remained on the 
Engwura ground, from which one of them, the watcher over 
the lUpongwurra, shouted instructions across to the women. 
The main party, headed by the three men bearing the 
Atnbilyerikirra, and accompanied by a few of the older men, 
moved in the form of a solid square out from the Engwura 
ground, over the river and up the opposite bank to where the 
women stood grouped together. All stood beckoning to the 
men to come on in the way already described, and at the 
same time they called quietly " kutta, kutta, kutta." The 
party approached slowly and in perfect silence, and when 
within five yards of the front rank of the women, the men 
who carried the Ambilyerikirra threw themselves headlong 
on the ground, hiding the sacred object from view. No 
sooner had they done this than the lUpongwurra threw them- 
selves on the top, so that only the heads of the three men 
could be seen projecting beyond the pile of bodies. Then, 
after remaining thus for two minutes, the lUpongwurra got 
up and formed into a square facing away from the women, 
after which the three leaders rapidly jumped up, turned their 
backs on the women, and were hustled through the square 



which they then led back to the Engwura ground, and with 
this the Ambilyerikirra ceremony came to an end. 

As will be noticed, there are three leading incidents ; the 
first is the throwing of fire-sticks over the women, the second 
the lying down of the Illpongwurra all night without moving, 
while the Ambilyerikirra, incessantly rising and faUing, is 

held upright before them ; the third is the carrying across of 
the sacred Churinga to the women's camp. 

All that the natives can say in explanation of this is that 
the rushing across to the women's camp represents an attack . 
by a party of wild cat men, who are Illpongwurra and not yet 
made Urliara, upon another party, and that the lying down 
quietly in front of the Ambilyerikirra represents the " taming " 
of the wild Illpongwurra under the influence of the sacred 



Churinga. They also say that if from any cause the 
strength of the men who are lifting up and down the 
Churinga should fail, then the lUpongwurra will die. They 
have no idea as to what is the meaning of the third incident 
— the carrying over of the Churinga to the women's camp. 

Whilst any explanation must at best be a mere conjecture, 
it is perhaps worth while suggesting that the whole ceremony 
may be commemorative of a reformatory movement which must 
at one time have taken place in the tribe in regard to the 
question of cannibalism. Traces of this still linger on, but 
only traces, and two or three of the ceremonies which had 
been performed during the few days immediately preceding 
that of the Antbilyerikirra seem to show that at a much 
earlier time it was practised to a much greater extent. The 
natives say that the idea of attacking another party, as 
represented in the first incident, is connected with eating 
the men who were killed. This, taken in conjunction with 
the fact that the second incident indicates a taming of the 
wild men whose natures are thereby made less fierce, may 
perhaps point back to a time when some powerful man, 
or group of men, introduced a reformation in regard to the 
habit of cannil>atism. The Ambilyerikirra is a ceremony of 
the Unchichera or frc^ totem, the Imanda centre of which 
is one of the most important in the tribe, as close by are also 
local centres of the Achilpa or wild cat the Elkintera or 
white bat, and the Unchipera or little bat totems. Engwuras 
were held in the Alcheringa, and one tradition relates how, 
while the frog people, aided by the white bats and the little 
bats, were holding one at Imanda, the Achilpa gathered there 
also and took part in it, and were made Urtiara by the 
Unchichera men, after which they started on their travels to 
the north. 

One important feature of the Engwura is that it is 
supposed to make the men who pass through it more kindly 
natured, and perhaps we have in the few traditions bearing 
upon the point sufficient evidence to warrant the conjecture 
that the Unchichera men whom we know to have formed an 
influential totem introduced the reformatory movement in the 
matter of cannibalism. If so it will explain the fact of the 



Ambifyerikirra ceremony being associated with the Unchichera 
totem, and we can see why the wild Illpongwurra who rush 
with fire-sticks over to attack the women should be represented 
as Achilpa men who have not been made into Urliara. 

The third incident, though the natives can give no 
explanation of it, may possibly be capable of being explained 
somewhat as follows. It takes place after the taming of the 
wild Illpongwurra, who are, it will be noticed, led across, 
following the old men and the sacred Churinga by means of 
which their natures are supposed to have been changed. 
Instead of on this occasion attacking the strange party, they 
fall down in front of them as if to show that their fierce 
nature has been changed. The showing of the Ambilyerikirra 
to the women is very difficult to understand, but in this 
instance it may be pointed out that they are supposed to 
represent the members of a strange camp, men and women 
included, not merely women, and, further, that they represent 
individuals of the Alcheringa, living at a time when women 
not only saw but carried about with them Churinga and 
Nurhinjas. At the Engwura, when the men are living 
t(^ether separated from the women, if there is to be a strange 
party for the lUptmgwurra to attack, it must be composed of 
the women, to whom the whole affair is a matter of the 
deepest mystery, which is probably not a little heightened by 
the small part which, every now and then, they are allowed to 
take in it They do not actually see the Churinga, though 
doubtless the older ones amongst them are quite aware of the 
nature of the Ambilyerikirra, but that it is a most unusual 
occurrence is emphasised by the fact that the moment the 
men come close to the women they fall flat down so as 
completely to hide from view the sacred object, and when 
they arise they rapidly turn round and are immediately 
surrounded by the other men. 

At the fire-throwing in the women's camp it will have been 
noticed that the men who cariy the Churinga actually go close 
up to the women and children, but the Churinga are kept in 
such rapid and continual movement that there is no chance of 
their being actually seen ; still there remains the fact that on 
these two occasions women are present when Churinga are 

B B 



used, whereas there is no doubt whatever that the most severe 
punishment follows even the accidental seeing of one of them 
by a woman under any other circumstance. We could get no 
explanation whatever from the natives in regard to the matter, 
except the inevitable one that it had always been so in the 
Alcheringa ; and it can only be added that, as a matter of fact, 
what little the women do see simply serves to add to their 

It was still early morning when the lUpongtvurra returned to 
the Engwura ground from the women's camp, and, just after 
sunrise, they were sent out with instructions to remain away 
for two days. In camp everything was quiet, as the night had 
been an exhausting one, and no one, except perhaps one or 
two of the younger ones, had had any sleep. During the day 
about thirty short sticks made out of gum-tree wood were 
prepared. Each was about an inch in diameter and from six 
to nine inches in length. They were carefully rubbed with 
red ochre, and then later on in the day the leader hid them in 
the loose soil forming the Parra mound. These sticks are 
called Unchidiera irrunpa, they may not be seen by women, 
and are supposed to represent young frc^s. When it became 
dark theolder men assembled by the Parra from which the stick.s 
were taken, as if they were frogs hiding in the ground, as most 
of the Central Australian species do, and then, accompanied 
by the continuous clunk, clunk of the sticks, the one held in 
the right hand being allowed to fall upon the one in the left, 
the men sang for two or three hours. 

On the next day, while the lUpongvmrra were all far away 
out in the bush, the sacred pole, or Kauaua, was first of all 
ornamented and then erected in the middle of the ceremonial 
ground. It had been lying all night in the bed of the creek, 
where the preparations for ceremonies were made, and in the 
morning the men who had brought it in b^an to decorate it. 
First of all one of these men, a Kumara, bled himself, opening 
for the purpose a vein in his arm. From this he allowed 
blood to flow until there was enough to fill five times over the 
haft of a shield. This was quite the equivalent of five half pints, 
and, as if that were not enough, he ended by walking slowly 
once up and down by the side of the pole, allowing the blood 



to spurtle over it in the form of a thin stream. He did not 
seem to be any the worse for the loss of so much blood ; in 
fact, during the whole Engwura, an astonishing quantity was 

i KAUAUA ; THE li 

used, and the natives appeared to think nothing whatever 
about it, no one objecting for a moment to open a vein in his 
arm or, just as frequently, to obtain it from the subincised 

B B 2 



urethra, these being the two parts from which the blood is 
obtained. The blood in the shields was then smeared with a 
small brush, made of a stick and opossum fur-string wound 
round one end, on to the pole, until the latter was reddened 
all over, and, being upwards of twenty feet in length, it took, 
as may be imagined, a considerable amount. Then to the top 
was affixed a large bunch of eagle-hawk feathers ; white Ckilara 
or head-bands were tied round under this ; then Alpita tail 
tips were suspended in two bunches, one on either side, and 
Just below the Ckilara a long nose bone was attached, — in fact 
the decoration was just that of a human head. Then a few 
Churinga, which might be of any totem, were strung on near 
to the top, and the pole thus decorated was brought on to the 
ground.' A hole was dug two feet deep by means of a 
pointed digging stick, and in this it was firmly implanted at a 
distance of atx>ut six yards from the Parra and opposite to the 
middle ol the mound. 

In the early part of the afternoon of this day the III- 
pongwurra had to submit themselves for the second time to 
an ordeal by fire. A secluded spot amongst the ranges some 
two miles away from Alice Springs was selected, and here, 
while the young men rested by the side of a water-hole in the 
bed of the Todd, the Urliara, who were in charge of them, 
went to the chosen spot and made a lai^e fire of Ic^s and 
branches about three yards in diameter. Then the young 
men, of whom forty were present, were called up, and putting 
green bushes on the fire they were made to lie down full 
length upon the smoking boughs, which prevented them from 
coming into contact with the red-hot embers beneath. The 
heat and smoke were stifling, but none of them were allowed 
to get up until they received the permission of the Urliara. 
After they had all been on once, each one remaining for about 
four or five minutes on the fire, the old men came to the 
conclusion that they must repeat the process, and so making 
up the fire again, they were once more put on in the midst of 
dense clouds of smoke, one of the older men lifting up the 
green boughs at one side with a long pole so as to allow of the 

' The possible significance of the Kauaua is dealt with in connection with the 
(lexription of the decoration of objects used duringsacredceremoDies, Chsp. XIX. 



access of air and ensure the smouldering of the leaves and 
green wood. There was no doubt as to the trying nature of 
the ordeal, as, apart from the smoke, the heat was so great 
that, after kneeling down on it to see what it was like, we got 
up as quickly as possible, and of course the natives had 
no protection in the way of clothes. 

When this was over, the lUpongwurra rested for an hour by 

the side of the waterholc, for the day was a hot one, the 
thermometer registering iios" F. in the shade, and 156" F. in 
the sun, while the ceremony was in progress. 

Later on in the afternoon they came into camp and 
witnessed the last of the ceremonies prior to the final fire 
ceremony which was to take place in the women's camp. 
Two men, one a Purula of the emu totem and the other a 



Kumara of the little bat totem, performed a Quabara belong- 
ing to the frog totem of Imanda. Each was decorated on 
the head and body with longitudinal bands of white down 
while the Purula man carried a Churinga five feet long on his 
head. The Illpongwurra having put down their shields, 
boomerangs, and boughs of ivelta, stood in a long line by 
the side of the Parra facing the Kauaua, which they now saw 
for the first time. Then the two performers came up from 
the bed of the creek which lay on the opposite side of the 
ground, the man with the Churinga walking behind the other 
one and carrying a shield at his back. Both at first adopted 
the high knee action, but when about thirty feet from the 
Kauaua^ the front man suddenly knelt down and then moved 
forward, jumping on his knees with his hands behind his back. 
The idea is that the front man was a frog which suddenly 
jumps out of a tree, the latter being one of the special gum- 
trees growing at Imanda. When this was over the Illpong- 
wurra lay down by the side of the Parra for two or three 

After dark a dozen or more fires were lighted around the 
base of the Kauaua^ and around these the men were grouped, 
each ab-moara amongst the elder men taking charge of and 
decorating his protigh. That night no one in either the 
men's or the women's camp went to sleep. On the opposite 
side of the river to the Engwura ground, the light of the 
women's camp fires could be seen flickering amongst the trees. 
All night long also the old men kept shouting across to the 
women, who answered back again, and the scene was one of 
great excitement. An old man would shout out, " What are 
you doing ?" and the women would answer, " We are making a 
fire." " What are you going to do with the fire ? " to which the 
reply would come, " We are going to burn the men." Then 
the old men would dare the women to come across into the 
ICngwura camp ; one ancient Panunga man was especially 
active in calling to his Mura woman, to whom under ordinarj- 
circumstances it would not be permissible for him to speak in 
this way, calling her by name and saying, " Urliwatchera, are 
you there? " and she would answer, " Yes, I am here ; what is 
it ? " and then he would call out to her to come across. The 




H (2 

f it 





men would ask the women derisively if they were going to 
send the Kurdaiicha after them, and, indeed, this kind of 
badinage was kept up at intervals all night long. In the 
women's camp all were gathered together at one spot, and 
here, side by side, the Panunga and Bulthara women on the 
one hand, and the Punila and Kumara on the other, dug out, 
each of them, a shallow pit about two yards in diameter, and 
in each of these, towards daybreak, they made a fire. 

In the Engwura camp it was a busy and also a picturesque 
scene. The leader had, during the day, consulted the older 
men who were especially associated with him, and it had 
been decided what brands should be painted on the various 
young men. Each brand was distinctive of some special 
totem, but the most striking point in connection with the 
painting was that the brand of any particular individual had 
no relationship of necessity to his own totem, or to that of 
the man who painted him. It was purely a matter of what 
the old men, and especially the leader of the Engwura, 
decided upon. The following cases will illustrate the point :- ■ 

A Panunga man of the snake totem decorated an Umbitchana 
man of the plum tree totem with a brand of the frog totem. 

A Kumara man of the wild cat totem painted a Bulthara 
man of the emu totem with a brand of the kangaroo totem. 

An Appungerta man of the wltchetty grub totem painted 
an Umbitchana man of the wild cat totem with a brand of 
the Hakea totem. 

A Kumara man of the little bat totem painted an 
Appungerta man of the bandicoot totem with a brand of the 
frog totem. 

A Bulthara man of the wild cat totem painted a Furula 
man of the native pheasant totem with a brand of the same 
totem, this being the only instance in which a man was painted 
with a brand of his own totem, and the old men said that 
there was no special reason for Its being done in this special 

A Purula man of the emu totem painted an Uknaria man 
of the lizard totem with a brand of the frc^ totem. 

For this strange want of relationship between the totems of 
the men who did the decorating and those who were 




decorated, and still more for the total absence of any between 
the man who was decorated and the totem with a brand of 
which he was decorated, we could find out no reason what- 
ever. Certainly the natives have no idea why it is so. 

The materials used in the painting were charcoal, red and 
j-ellow ochre, white pipeclay and wad. In some few cases 
bands of wad edged with white down were drawn on the 
chest, but in almost all cases the totemic brand was confined 
to the back, so that, as the Illpongi.vHrra might neither speak 
to, nor in the presence of, their ab-moara men who were doing 
the painting — a rule strictly observed during the decorating — 
none of the men, unless they could detect it by the feel, were 
aware of what design they were personally branded with, 
though each one could of course see the brands on the other 
men. The arms of each man were tightly encircled with 
bands of kulchia made of opossum fur-string, which had been 
specially spun by men and women for the purpose. Every 
man wore his waist-girdle, and the forehead bands were 
painted up for the occasion. A characteristic ornament 
always worn on this occasion was a necklet, called wupira, 
consisting of a single thick strand of well-greased and red- 
ochred fur-string, one end of which hung down the middle of 
the back as far as the waist, and terminated in a little tuft of 
kangaroo-rat tail tips. Tufts of the latter were also suspended 
over either ear. 

It was five o'clock in the morning before the painting was 
complete. Then, having shouted across to the women that all 
was ready, the leader of the Engwura went and broke through 
the middle of the Parra, and then through the line of boughs. 
Each of the ab-moara men then led his protigis round the 
Parra, all singing out " whrr, %vhrr" as they ran round for the 
last time. When all had been round, the men grouped 
themselves at the base of the Kauaua} and then, in perfect 
silence, the whole party walked in single file through the break 

' The relative pusilions nP thi? Parra anil nf [he women's camp must be such 
ihal when grouped round the Kauaua, and looking towards the women, the nien 
face eastwards, the Parra lying between them and the women. The direction in 
which the Parra rons is in some way associated with the &ct that in the Alcheringa 
the various wandering gioup of Achil[ia travelled north and south ; the fitcing nf 
(he men towards the east has nothing to do with the rising of the sun. 



s ■* I 




in the Parra and the line of bushes, each ab-moara leading 
his own men, all linked hand in hand. It was a most 
picturesque scene in the early morning light, for the sun had 
not yet risen, as the men filed down into the sandy bed of the 
river, on which they formed a long string reaching across from 
one bank to the other. On the opposite side they halted 
about fifty yards from the group of women and children who 
were standing behind the two fires, which were now giving off 
dense volumes of smoke from the green bushes which had 
been placed on the red-hot embers. The women, bending 
one leg while they slightly swayed the body, and beckoned 
the men for^vards with their hands, kept calling " kutta, kutta, 
kutta." First of all one ab-moara man with his lUpongwurra 
ran forwards, taking a semicircular course from the men 
towards the women, and then back again. After each of 
them had done this, then in turn they led their men, running, 
up to the fires, and on one or other of these the lUpongwurra 
knelt down, the Panunga and Bulthara men on the fire made 
by the Purula and Kumara women, and vice versa, while the 
women put their hands on the men's shoulders and pressed 
them down. In this way the performance was rapidly gone 
through, not a word being spoken when once the ceremony 
had begun, each man simply kneeling down in the smoke for 
at most half a minute. In less than half an hour all was 
over ; the women remained for a short time behind their fires 
and then dispersed, and the men, in silence, marched back to 
their camp on the Engwura ground, where the newly-made 
Urliara grouped themselves around the Kauaua. With this 
the ceremonies on the Engwura ground came to a close ; the 
Kauaua was taken down and dismantled, all traces of the blood 
being rubbed off; the Churinga were sorted out and returned 
to their respective owners. 

The older men now returned to their camps, but the newly- 
made Urliara men had still to remain out in the bush until 
the performance of a ceremony at which the ban of silence 
between them and their ab-moara men was removed. The 
Engwura ground was deserted, and for months afterwards it 
must not be visited by women and children, to whom it was 
strictly ekirinja, or forbidden. 



The fifth phase may be described very shortly. When 
the old men return to their camps and the newly-made 
Urliara go out into the bush, one or more ordinary dancing 
festivals take place. A special one associated with this 
period is a woman's dance. At night the men and women 
all assemble in the main camp. A few, perhaps six or eight 
of the men, are painted with bands of ochre, and the dance 
opens with these men, one after the other, coming out of 
the darkness into the light of the camp fire behind which a 
group of men and women are seated, beating time with 
sticks and boomerangs on the ground and singing a corrob- 
boree song. As each man approaches the fire he looks about 
him as if in search of some one, and then, after a short time, 
sits down amongst the audience. After the men have 
separately gone through this short performance a number 
of yoiing women, \i-ho have been waiting out of sight of the 
fire, come near. Each one is decorated with a double horse- 
shoe-shaped band of white pipe-clay which extends across 
the front of each thigh and the base of the abdomen. A 
flexible stick is held behind the neck and one end grasped 
by each hand. Standing in a group the women sway slightly 
from side to side, quivering in a most remarkable fashion, as 
they do so, the muscles of the thighs and of the base of the 
abdomen. The object of the decoration and movement is 
evident, and at this period of the ceremonies a general 
interchange, and also a lending of, women takes place, and 
visiting natives are provided with temporary wives, though 
on this occasion in the Arunta tribe the woman allotted 
to any man must be one to whom he is unawa, that is, 
who is lawfully eligible to him as a wife. This woman's 
dance, which is of the most monotonous description possible 
goes on night after night for perhaps two or three weeks, at 
the end of which time another dance is commenced. By the 
time that this is over, or perhaps earlier still, for there is no 
fixed time, the final ceremonies commence in connection with 
the newly-made Urliara. Each of them has to bring in an 
offering of food to his ab-moara man. Under ordinary cir- 
cumstances such a food-offering is called ckaurilia, but this 
particular one is called ertwa-kirra, that is, man's meat 



When the present has been made, the ab-moara man either 
performs, or else requests some one else to perform, a sacred 
ceremony which belongs to himself. These ceremonies are 
of the nature of those already described, and the description 
of one or two will suffice to illustrate the nature of them 
all. A Panunga man of the lizard totem brought in a wallaby 
as ertwa'kirra to his ab-moara, who was a Purula man 
of the emu totem. It need hardly be said that the food 
brought in belongs neither to the totem of the giver nor 
to that of the recipient. The latter in this instance prepared 
a ceremony of the wild cat totem in a secluded spot amongst 
the ranges away from the Engwura ground. A remarkable 
feature in connection with this and other of these special 
ceremonies concerned with the offering of food was the 
sprinkling of the older men with blood drawn from the arms 
of the younger men, not necessarily from the younger man 
who was making the offering. Early in the morning of the 
day on which the ceremony was performed, one of the young 
men had opened a vein in his arm and had allowed the blood 
to flow out in a thin stream over the bodies of four of the 
older men who were present, including the ab-moara man 
to whom the food was lieing given. Some of the blood had 
been allowed to flow into their open mouths, the idea being 
to strengthen the older men at the expense of the younger 
ones, and it had trickled down and over their txxlies in thin 
streams and had dried up. The ceremony itself was of the 
usual description, and was accompanied by the dancing round 
of the young men who came running into the narrow defile 
in which it was held, and where the decorated men were 
waiting for them. When it was over, the men all grouped 
themselves close together and b^an singing, while the elder 
ab-moara man took a bunch of feathers which had been 
used as part of the decoration and touched with it the 
mouths of all those present. By means of this action, which 
15 called Aralkalilima, the ban of silence was broken. Some- 
times, as in this case, a part of the decoration of some 
individual was used ; at others, when one had been used 
in the ceremony, a Nurlunja was brushed against the mouths 
of the men present, and in many, but not at) cases, not only 



the mouth of the man who was being released from the 
ban was touched, but also that of all the men who happened 
to be present. When this part was over, the man who 
was receiving the food sat down tf^ether with the older 
men, and then the young man, or perhaps two or three 
tc^ether who were making the presentation, went back to 

the spot at which the food had been deposited, and, bringing 
it in, placed it before the ab-moara man and then sat down 
close in front of him. After singing for a minute or two 
the old man took up the food, and holding it, or a frag- 
ment of it, in his hands, placed it against the mouth of the 
young man or men. In this way, after the lapse of some time, 
the ceremonies of the Engwura were brought to a close. 



In another of these ceremonies of Aralkalilima, a wild cat 
Quabara, belonging to a place called Atnyraungwuramunia, 
■was performed by two men, one an Apungerta of the 
witchetty grub totem, and the other his son, a Panunga of the 
Irriakura totem, the object being to release from the ban 
•of silence two Purula men, who were ab-moara to the first- 
named man. For use in the ceremony a Nurtunja was made, 
and during the making only the nakrakia of the performers 
were present The ceremony itself, with the performers 
squatting at the base of the Nurtunja, was much as usual, 
the crowd who took part in the running round comprising 
all classes. One of the ab-moara men carried his ertwa-kirra 
offering in his hands as he ran round, the other left his 
some distance away. The performance came to an end by 
the ab-moara men suddenly squatting down behind the per- 
formers. All then stood up, and one of the Purula men 
offered his ertwa-kirra, having done which he and all the other 
Purula and Kumara men moved to one side, forming a group 
with the two ab-moara men in the centre. The old man 
now lifted out the Nurtunja, and all the men belonging to 
his moiety of the tribe stood in two lines with the Nurtunja 
held horizontally between them, every man supporting it 
with his hands and lifting it slowly up and down while they 
sang, and at the same time gradually approached the other 
group of men. The front rank of the latter now opened 
out, leaving the two ab-moara Purula men in front of the 
Nurtunja. Still singing, and with an occasional " wak ! wah! " 
the faces of the two men, but of none of the others, were 
stroked with the Nurtunja, after which the latter was again 
replaced in the ground, and for some minutes they continued 
to sing of the Nurtunja and Kauaua of the Alcheringa This 
ceremony is one of those which for some reason has special 
associations with one moiety of the tribe, and during its 
performance the separation of the two moieties was most 
strongly marked. 

The following ceremony is of interest in one or two respects. 
It was performed on the occasion of an offering of ertwa- 
kirra made by two men, one a Panunga and the other an 
Uknaria, who were ab-moara to a Kumara man, and com- 



prised two separate performances. The first of these was 
concerned with the Unchipera or small bat totem, and the 
performer personated a man carrying about the body of a 
dead man which he intended to eat, and which was repre- 
sented by a semi-circular structure made of grass stalks 
bound round with fur-string, which is called Alnuta, and is 
supposed to be emblematic of the limp body. The second 

part of the ceremony was concerned with the Elkintera or 
white bat totem, and one of the two performers also carried 
one of these A inula objects, representing a dead man, on his 
head. When the two performances were over, the three 
performers, one of whom was the Kumara man to whom the 
offering was being made, stood up, and the ceremony of 
Aralkalitima was performed, the Alnuta being used to stroke 
the mouth of the ab-moara men. This over, the performers 

c c 



sat round the eriwa-kirra,hut the difficulty arose that the may 
to whom the offering was being made was Gammona of om 
of the ab-moara men, and for a Gammona to receive food froii 
his Ikuntera (in this case a tribal father-in-law) is contrarj' t( 
custom. To obviate this difficulty the Gammona man turnei 
his back on the food while his Ikuntera came up, tore a smal 
piece of meat off", and with it rubbed the Gammona's mouth 
and then thrust it into the latter, thus for the time beins 
removing the tabu. 

A man is not supposed to come into the presence of hi' 
ab-moara until such time as he has made an offering o 
ertwa-kirra to the latter, and if it be inconvenient to tlii 
ab-moara man to perform a Quabara and go through thi 
whole Aralkalilima ceremony, he performs a minor ceremonj 
called Anaintalilima which, though not releasing a man frorr 
the ban of silence, permits him to come into the presence o 
the ab-moara. In this case a messenger is sent to tht 
ab-moara asking him to come and receive irtwa-kirra. Ht 
goes to a certain spot — there is no particular place but i' 
must be out of sight of the main camp so that the proceeding: 
cannot be witnessed by women and children — and there hi 
sits down and powders up some red ochre, which he place 
beside him on a shield. The man brings up the offering o 
meat (sometimes there may be more than one man), places i 
' on the ab-moara's lap, and then kneels down close in fron) 
Not a word is spoken, but the ab-moara gravely rubs him al 
over with red ochre. The ban of silence is not removed, bu 
he may now go into the presence of his ab-moara, by whom a 
some future time a sacred ceremony will be performed, am 
the ban removed in the usual way. This second ceremon; 
will probably, though not of necessity, entail a second offerinj 
of ertwa-kirra and very often a hint is conveyed from tb 
old ab-moara that such an offering will facilitate matters. 






\c earh", middle and laler Alcheringa — The early Alcheringa — Transfoimalion 
of ihe InaptrtvM creatures into human beings by the Un^mbitula—'^tyiAMSan 
referring to the Ulpmerka of the plum tree totem— The two liiard men kill 
(he OruiKha at Simpson Gap — Marital relations not restricted by tolem in 
the Alcheringa — The middle Alcheriiwa — -The Ullakupera men and their 
stone knives— Introduclion by them of circumcision by means of a stone knife 
— Endeavour of the Utiara men to sccuro stone knivesr-Wandetings of ihe 
Ullakupera from Alnaturka to Utiara — The Ullahupera transform Inaperlwa 
• into human beings and give them class names~-An old Echidna man dis- 
approves of the use of stone knives — The men of the Elonka lotem who had 
not been circumcised by the Unganiiiiu/a are operated on and made into 
Araturla — The Echidna mutilates an<l kills the last man on whom (he L'lla- 

■ kupera were about to opcrale- He is himself killed, and the spears which 
' were thrown into his body are represented liy ihe spines of the Echidna — In 

■ consequence of this there are no more Echidna men and women— The Ulla- 
< kupera men march on, and another Echidna man murders one upon whore 

they were about to operate, and is killed— The murdered man comes to lilc 
. again— End of Ihe UUakupera wanderings — The wanderings of the Achilfa or 
wild cat people and the introduction by them of the ceremony of sub-incision 
— The first group of wild cat people start from Ihe east side-and (ravel north 
— The wild cat men feed on Hakea flower and drink their own blood — They 
join a party of plum tree men, die, and come (o life again as Ulfmtrka of the 
jilum tree totem — The second group of wild art people — Divides into two 
groups, one of which travels north by way of Imanda on the Hugh River, anil 
then on beyond (he Macdonnell Ranges lo a spot al which ibeyareall drowned 
in blood by a wild cat man^The third group travels lo the west of the second 
group, crosses the Macdonnell Ranges, reaches the centre r-f the continent, 
and there the men die— The fourth party travels still further to the west, 
crosses the Macdonnell Ranges, and journeys on (o the north until the Salt 
Water country is reached — The later Alcheringa— Restrictions with r^anl lo 
marriage in the middle Alcheringa — Men and women of the same tolem living 
, together — The emu people establish Ihe preseni class system — Oulline of 
stages supposed to have been jiassed through in the development of the social 
organisation, &c., according to tradition. 

E have hitherto spoken of the Alcheringa in general 

.ms, using the word to denote the whole period during which 

te mythical ancestors of the present Arunta tribe existed. 

"^1 reaUty the traditions of the tribe recognise four more 

■^ less distinct periods in the Alcheringa. During the first 

C C 2 



of these men and women were created ; in the second the rile 
of circumcision by means of a stone knife, in place of a 
fire-stick, was introduced ; in the third the rite of Arittha 
or sub-incision was introduced, and in the fourth the present 
organisation and marriage system of the tribe were established 
The second and third periods are, however, by no means sharply 
defined, and to a certain extent they are contemporaneous, or 
rather they overlap one another. 

We may speak of these periods as the early, the middle 
(comprising the second and third), and the later Alcheringa. 

The earliest tradition with which we are acquainted is 
as follows. In the early Alcheringa the country was covered 
with salt water {Kwatcha alia). This was gradually with- 
drawn towards the north by the people of that countrj' 
who always wanted to get it and to keep it for themselves.' 
At last they succeeded in doing so, and the salt water has 
remained with them ever since. At this time there dwell 
in the Alkira aldorla, that is the western sky, two beings of 
whom it is said that they were Ungambiktila, a word whidi 
means " out of nothing," or " self-existing." From their 
elevated dwelling-place they could see, far away to the east, a 
number oi hiaperlwa creatures,* that is rudimentary human 
beings or incomplete men, whom it was their mission to make 
into men and women. 

In those days there were no men and women, and the 
Inapertiva were of various shapes and dwelt in groups along 
by the shores of the salt water. They had no distinct 
limbs or organs of sight, hearing or smell, and did not 
sat food, and presented the appearance of human beings all 
doubled up into a rounded in which just the outline 
of the different parts of the body could be vaguely seen. 

Coming down from their home in the western sky, armed 
with their Lalira or great stone knives, the Ungambikula took 

' Though it is scarcely credible that there can be any (radilion relating to a lirat 
si> far past, j-ei it is a, renmrkabie coincidence that this tradition reflects «ha: 
Ideological evidence shows to have been the case, so far as the existence of a gra! 

' In the RtpsrI e/ the Horn Expedition, vol. iv., |i. 184, this word was Hiiller. 
luaperhoa, and translated "Echidna," or "Native Porcupine." The spellinc 
and explanation now given arc the correct ones. 



hold of the Inapertwa, one after the other. First of all the arms 
were released, then the fingers were added by making four 
clefts at the end of each arm ; then legs and toes were added 
in the same way. The figure could now stand, and after this 
the nose was added and the nostrils bored with the fingers. 
A cut with the knife made the mouth, which was pulled open 
several times to make it flexible. A slit on each side 
separated the upper and lower eye-lids, hidden behind which 
the eyes were already present, another stroke or two com- 
pleted the body, and thus, out of the Inapertwa, men and 
women were formed. 

These Inapertwa creatures were in reality stages in the 
transformation of various animals and plants into human 
beings, and thus they were naturally, when made into human 
beings, intimately associated with the particular animal or 
plant, as the case may be, of which they were the transforma- 
tions — in other words, each individual of necessity belonged to 
a totem the name of which was of course that of the animal 
or plant of which he or she was a transformation. This 
tradition of the Ungambikula only refers to a certain number 
of totems, or rather to a certain number of local groups of 
individuals belonging to particular totems ; in the case of 
others such as, for example, the Udnirringita or witchetty 
grub totem, there is no tradition relating to the Inapertwa 
stage. The Ungambikula made into men Inapertwa who 
belonged to the following totems ; — Akakia or plum tree, 
Inguitchika or grass seed, Echunpa or large lizard, 
Erliwatchera or small lizard, Atninpirichira or Alexandra 
parakeet, and Untania or small rat. In the case of all 
except the first they also performed the rite of Lartna or 
circumcision by means of a fire-stick. 

The same tradition relates that, after having performed 
their mission, the Ungambikula transformed themselves into 
little lizards called Amunga-quiniaquinia, a word derived 
from amunga a fly and guiniaguinia to snap up quickly. 
There is no reason given for this, and in no other tradition do 
we meet with either the Ungambikula or the special kind of 
lizard into which they changed. 

In the case of a group of plum tree men who lived at a 



spot called Quiurnpa,* which is associated with many traditions 
and in the case also of certain of the Unguitchika (grass seed 
totem) men, the Ungambikula first of all made them into 
human beings but did not circumcise them, so that they 
were what the natives call Ulpnierka, — the term applied to 
bojs before this rite has been performed upon them. The 
Ungambikula, so the tradition goes on to say, intended to 
return and complete the work, but they were annoyed by the 
behaviour of certain Ortincha, that is " devil-devil " men, who 
lived at a place called Atnuraquina, which is near to a gap 
in the Macdonnell Range now called Temple Bar. These 
evil beings killed and ate a lot of lizard men and women 
ivhom they had made out of InaperHva, so they did not 
return, and therefore the plum tree people of Quiurnpa, and 
one or two other groups of men and \vomen, remained in the 
state of Ulpmerka or uninitiated. The same Oruncha ate 
a number of Alexandra parakeet, grass seed and small 
rat people. Of the lizard men only two survived the 
slaughter. The)' were brothers (how they came to be so the 
tradition does not say) and the younger of the two, together 
with his wife, was away down south when the slaughter took 
place. Upon his return he at once saw the tracks of the 
Onincha, and being frightened he placed his wife, who 
was also a lizard, in the centre of his Ilpilla, which is 
the large bundle of eagle-hawk feathers worn in the hair- 
girdle in the middle of the back, and thus concealed her 
from view. Then he searched for his Okilia or elder brother, 
and at length found his head, to which he spoke, with the 
result that the man at once came to life and said, "the 
Oriuicha killed us but the>- threw awa>' my head ; they will 
come again, take care of yourself" 

Then he pointed to the track which thej- had made, and 
the two men, arming themselves with strong Urumpira. 
that is spears of heav)- wood such as mulga, all made 
in one piece and only used for fighting at clo-se quarters, 
went to opposite sides of a narrow goi^e which is now 
known as the Simpson Gap, and is at the present day an 
important local centre of the lizard totem. The natives 
' The localilj- of Ihc various places nanicil is indicated on iht luajis. 



point out special stones which mark the spot where the two 
men stood. 

When the Onincha made their appearance, the two brothers 
rushed down upon them, and with their good Urumpira killed 
them all. They fell in a great heap just at the entrance to 
the goi^e, and to the present day a great pile of jagged 
boulders marks the exact spot. After having thus destroyed 
their enemies, the elder of the two brothers stayed at the 

gorge, and there finally died, though his spirit remained in 
the Churinga, which he, like every other Alcheringa individual, 
carried about with him ; the younger brother travelled away 
to a place a long way to the south called Arumpira not far 
from Eridunda, where he died, and so, by leaving his spirit 
behind in his Churinga, together with those associated with 
other Churinga which he carried, formed there a local 
Kchunpa or lizard totem centre. 

The above tradition is of considerable interest ; it is in the 



first place evidently a crude attempt to describe the origin of 
human beings out of non-human creatures who were of 
various forms ; some of them were representatives of animals, 
others of plants, but in all cases they are to be regarded as 
intermediate stages in the transition of an animal or plant 
ancestor into a human individual who bore its name as that of 
his or her totem. It has already been said that the tradition 
only refers to certain totems ; we shall see subsequently that 
in the middle Alcheringa the making of men out oi fnapertwa 
was continued by individuals of the Ullakupera or little hawk 
totem. The reference in the tradition to the Ulpmerka men 
of the Akakia (plum tree), and Ingwitchika (grass seed; 
totems is of importance, as it serves to throw light upon what 
had been to us for some time a matter of considerable 
difficulty, and one for which no explanation had been forth- 
coming. We were acquainted with numerous ceremonies 
concerned with a group of individuals who were always 
spoken of as the Ulpmerka of a place called Quiurnpa, and 
we were also acquainted with ceremonies concerned with 
certain so-called Arakurta men. In each case the men were 
groups of individuals who belonged to special totems. One 
man, for example, would be an Akakia or plum tree man, 
while another would be an Ulpmerka of the Akakia totem. 
In just the same way one man would be an Elonka (a 
Marsdenia fruit) man, and another would be an Arakurta of 
the Elonka totem. In the above tradition and in those con- 
cerned with the middle Alcheringa period, we can see how 
this is accounted for by the natives. The Ulpmerka were 
certain of the plum tree men who were not circumcised by the 
Ungambikula, and the Arakurta were in the same state, but 
were subsequently operated upon by the Ullakupera and 
were thus changed from Ulpmerka into Arakurta. 

Attention must also be drawn to the striking fact that there 
is no reference whatever to any system of organisation apart 
from the totemic system, and further that this is not described 
as regulating marriage. The only reference to the latter 
which occurs is in the case of the younger of the two lizard 
brothers, who carried his wife in the bunch of eagle-hawk 
ftathers, and it is expressly said of her that she was a 



lizard woman, that is, she belonged to the same totem as 
that to which he himself did. In fact, during the Alcheringa 
period concerning which we have very numerous and full 
traditions, some of which will be dealt with subsequently, it 
will be clearly seen that we are dealing with a time in which 
marital relations were not restricted by totem. We have 
definite Indications of the existence of such relations between 
men and women of the same totems. We have been con- 
stantly on the watch for any tradition which would deal with 

the r^ulation of the marital relationship in times past, but 
though, as will be seen shortly, there are clear indications of a 
time when the restrictions which now obtain were adopted, 
there is no Indication whatever of a time when a man of any 
particular totem was obliged to marry a woman of another 
one. Such indications as there appear on the contrary 
rather point towards the usual existence of marital relations 
between men and women of the same totem. There are, 
however, one or two traditions which deal with the relationship 



of men and women of different totems, and these will be 
discussed later ; meanwhile it may be said that in the matter 
of totems and the restriction by these of marital relationship, 
a sharp line of separation may be drawn between the northern 
central tribes as exemplified by the Arunta, and the southern 
central tribes as exemplified by the Urabunna. 

We may now pass on to deal with the middle Alcheringa 
period. Tradition relates that a great Oknirabata ' of the 
Ullakupera or little hawk totem arose at a place called 
Atnaturka by the side of a stream now called Love's Creek. 
He and the men of his group were remarkable for the posses- 
sion of very fine stone knives, called Zd/iVd, with which they 
performed the operation of Lartna or circumcision. Amongst 
the men of all other totems up to that time stone knive.s 
were not used for this purpose, and the operation was always 
performed with a fire-stick.^ 

One of the Ullakupera men, who was a Purula named 
Ulpmurintha, flew from Atnaturka to U tiara, a place about 
ten miles north of Alice Springs, where at an earlier time the 
Umgambikula had made into Vlpmerka certain Inapertiva 
creatures of the Untaina or small rat totem. Along with 
these people there dwelt two Ullakupera men, one a Kumara 
named Irtaquirinia and the other a Purula named Yirapur- 
tarinia, a Kumara man, both of whom are at the present time 
represented by living men, who are in fact simply regarded as 
their reincarnations. 

Previous to the arrival of Ulpmarintha the two Ullakupera 
men had prepared a large ApttUa, that is a special ground on 
which the rite of circumcision is |>erformed, and on this they 
intended to operate on the Ulpmerka with the usual fire-stick. 
When, however, Ulpmurintha appeared upon the scene, the 
two men went to him and said, " How must we cut these 
Ulpmerka men ? " and he replied, " You must cut them with 
Lalira." They replied sorrowfuUj", " We have no Laiira but we 

' This term is applinl to a nian nho is tsiwcialty leameii in all matters appei- 
taining to tribal customs and traditions ; the term is never applied except to old 
men, and is regarded as a veiy high distinction. 

^ In the southern Arunia tradition ascribes the intruduclion of a stone knife for' 
this puipisc to an old woman of the Unchichera or frog loteni. 



will cut them with Ura-ilyabara " (that is a fire-stick). The old 
man said, " No, do not do that, follow me to Atnaturka and I 
will give you some Lalira." Then he flew back quickly to 
Atnaturka and told two old men of his group what he had 
seen and said. One of these old men was a Kumara named 
Intumpulla, and the other was a Bulthara named Ungipur- 
turinia, and these two went and hid away the good Lalira, 
leaving only the poor ones in sight. Shortly afterwards the 
two Ullakupera men flew across the country to Atnaturka, 
and there they were given some Lalira swathed in bark. 
After receiving these they, without examining them, at once 
started back on their return journey, very much pleased with 
their good fortune in securing the knives. Upon arriving at 
Utiara they opened their parcels and found, very much to their 
annoyance, that the stone knives were very rough, and quite 
unlike those described to them by the old men. After this 
they paid several visits to Atnaturka with the object of 
securing some good Lalira, but were always treated in] the 
.same way, and being very desirous of securing them in some 
way or another they finally invited the old Ullakupera men to 
again visit Utiara, where a great number of Ulpmerka were 
ready to be operated upon. Accordingly a party of Ullakupera 
led b>' the two old men already named started from Atnaturka 
taking with them some women and carrying some good 
Lalira. They made their first camp at a place called Urtiacha, 
where the two streams now called Love's Creek and Todd 
River unite. They had no Nurtunja with' them nor any 
bird's down, but only Equina, or white pipe-clay, and Apirka, 
or powdered charcoal, with which to decorate themselves. 
Here thej- found an Apulia in readiness, at which were 
assembled a number of men, some of whom belonged to the 
Ertwaitcha or bell bird totem, and others to other totems. 
The Ullakupera men here performed the operation upon some 
of the young men, and afterwards upon a number'of the local 
men who considered the Lalira to be a great improvement 

upon the fire-stick. 
Close by the Apulia ground there were a large number of 

'napert'iva creatures of the same totem as the local men who 
ad been operated upon. These the Ullakupera, with their 



Stone knives, made into men and women, and at the same 
time conferred upon them the class names which they ever 
afterwards bore. It was these Ullakupera men who for the 
first time conferred upon the Arunta people the names of 
Panunga, Bulthara, Puruia, and Kumara. 

The Ullakupera were very quick in performing the 
operation of circumcision, and an Inarlinga (Echidna or 
" Porcupine") man who dwelt close by was very angry when 
he arrived and found that it was all over. He very strongly 
disapproved of the introduction of the stone knives. 

Where the Apulia ground had been made a fine clay-pan 
— that is a shallow depression capable of holding water for 
some time after a rainfall— was formed to mark the spot, and 
here several of the Ullakupera men went into the ground with 
their Churinga, from the spirits associated with which men and 
women, some of whom are now living, have sprung. 

Leaving this camp the party travelled a little north of a 
spot called Wurungatha, followed by the Inarlinga man. 
Here again they operated upon some more men ; the Inar- 
linga man came up too late, and was angry as before, and 
another clay-pan arose to mark the spot. The Inarlinga man 
did not follow them any further. Travelling on the party 
came to a spot called Iturkwarinia, where they found a number 
of men of the Arwatcha totem (little rat), but they did not 
operate upon these people, because there was no Apulia in 
readiness, but they transformed a number of Inapertwa into 
Arwatcha men and women. At this place one Puruia woman 
and a Kumara man were left behind, the Lalira which the 
latter carried being transformed into a Churinga when he went 
into the ground and died. Then they went on to the east of 
what is now Mount Undoolya, where they came across a 
number of Inapertwa of the Alchantwa (a seed) totem, who 
were transformed into human beings, and to the present day 
a fine groupof gum trees marks the spot where they performed 
the operation. Thence, crossing the range, they came to 
Unvampina, and here they found that the Anvatcha (little rat) 
people had prepared an Apulia, and therefore they performed 
Lartna upon them, and also operated upon Inapertwa 
creatures. Here also one Puruia man remained behind and 



went into the ground. He has since undergone reincarnation 
in the form of a man who was the father of a woman now living 
at Alice Springs. 

Travelling on they came to a place called Bulthara, because 
at the su^estion of the old Bulthara man, the party divided, 
the one half, that is the Fanunga and Bulthara, going to one 
side, while the other half, that is the Purula and Kumara, went 
to the other side. Turning their faces towards the east they 
looked back upon the course which they had come, and as soon 
as they had done this two hills arose to mark the spots on which 
they had stood. Then they again mingled together and some 
Inapertwa of the Irritcha (eagle hawk) totem were operated 
upon, and others also who belonged to the Untaina (small rat) 
totem. These newly-made beings were divided into two 
groups and made to stand apart just as the other men had 
done before. Then they marched on to a place called Ilarcha- 
inquila, on the present Jesse Creek, to the north of Undoolya, 
where they found, and operated on, some more Inapertwa 
of the eagle-hawk totem ; at Pitcharnia they found and 
operated upon some more, and at Chirchungina they met 
with Oruncha Inapertwa, and at Chara there were some be- 
longing to the Arthwarta (a small hawk) totem ; on all of 
these they operated. 

At Chara they were met by two men, who came from 
Utiara, and said, " We have brought back your stone knives 
which you gave us, they are of no use, why did you not give 
us good ones ? " The old men said, after they had looked at 
the Lalira, " Yes, these are no good, you may take some 
others." They accordingly took some, and saying, " Come 
quickly to our Apulia" at once returned to Utiara. Some 
curious looking stones, now regarded as sacred, arose to mark 
the spot were the Lalira were spread out. At Kartathura 
some Inapertwa of the Erlia (emu) totem were operated upon, 
and then, without camping, the party moved on to Thungu- 
mina, which lies some seven or eight miles to the north of 
Alice Springs, where again more Inapertwa of the emu totem 
were operated upon. At Thungamina they deposited some 
inferior Lalira, which were, however, afterwards picked up by 
the local people, and being by them regarded as sacred were 
placed in the store-house or Ertnatulunga at Utiara. Then the 



party travelled on to Thungarunga, and operated there upon 
/naperiwa crea-tuTes of the Marsdenia fruit and rat totems, and, 
having done so, cleaned up and sharpened their Lalira with 
ashes and walked on to Utiara, where they stood waiting to 
hear the Lartna song which would show them that the 
Apuila was ready. As soon as the singing was heard they 
went on to the Apuila ground, a number of stones stand- 
ing up on end now marking the spot where they stood and 

Standing to one side of the Apulia they watched while 
the two local men for the first time operated with stone 
knives. They were not, as yet, expert in the use of the 
knives, and after two or three operations the old Ultakupcra 
man named Intumpulla said, " Stand aside, I will do the 
cutting ; " and so he cut all the Ulpmerka who had previously 
been transformed out of Inapertwa by the Ungambikula. 
He told them to go away altogether to the Utiara Range 
where they went into the ground and so formed there an 
Oknanikilla which is called that of the Arakurta of the Elonka 
totem, and which is the only one of this nature in the 
neighbourhood . 

After sending the Arakttrta away the old man still went 
on cutting, and when about to operate on the last man, who 
was markilunawa, that is a married man, an old man of 
the Inarlinga (Echidna) totem rushed on to the Apulia ground 
and said, " I must cut this man with my Lalira" and drawing 
a knife from a socket in his skull just behind his ear, grasped 
the man's penis and scrotum, and with one savage stroke 
of his knife cut them off, and the man fell down dead. 
The old Echidna man at once ran away, but was followed 
by the Ullakupera and other men, who killed him, ridd- 
ling his body' with spears. Since then no Echidna men 
or women have ever sprung up in the country, but only 
animals covered with spines, which represent the spears 
with which the Alcheringa Echidna man was killed. 
Before this happened there were Echidna animals, but they 
had no spines, and this is how the Inarlinga or Echidna came 
to be covered with spines. By thus killing the man on the 
sacred Apulia ground the Inarlinga "spoilt" himself, and all 
the totem kindred, and so they cannot rise again except in 



the form of little animals covered with spines which are 
simply Alcheringa spears. 

When the wives of the murdered man missed him they 
went to the Apulia ground and there they found him dead, 
and, noticing his mutilated state, they searched for many days 
for the missing organs. They dug up the Aptiila ground 
without success, and were much troubled until one day the 
younger of the two women, who was Quitia or younger sister 
of the other, found the missing organs under the bank on one 
side of the Apulia ; placing them in her alpara or pitchi, she 
took them to the body and tried to join them on again, but 
they would not remain in position, and so she called her elder 
sister and both tried many times without any success, until 
finally, placing the organs on the ground, they laid the body 
on the top of them, face downwards, so that they might rest 
in the proper position. Then, feeling very mournful, the two 
women sat down, one on each side of the dead man, and all 
three then turned into the stones which still exist to mark the 
spot. A little distance away is another stone which represents 
the mother of the two women, who came to look for her 
daughters and would not go away without them. Being 
Mura to the dead man she could not come close up to him 
and so sat down a little distance away. 

At this spot the Ullakupera men left some women, thus 
forming another Oknanikilla, and of these women, one a 
Purula, called Chitta, has at the present day a living repre- 

From Utiara the party flew up into the sky, and travelling 
northwards descended again to earth at Ilkania, a spot 
close to what is now known as the Burt Plain, where they 
found bandicoot, carpet snake and one old Echidna man 
assembled at an Apulia ground. Here they performed 
Lartna with their stone knives, and once more, just as they 
were about to cut the last man who was an Okranina or snake 
man, the old Echidna man rushed up, and, before they could 
stop him, mutilated the man with a stone knife which he 
carried, as before, in a socket behind his ear. The Echidna 
was at once speared, but ran a short distance from the Apulia 
while the spears were pouring in upon him, until, after having 



run round in a circle, he fell down dead. A circular rock hole 
appeared to mark the spot. All the men who had been 
operated upon ran away, followed by their women ; the wives 
of the murdered man remained behind and called to him many 
times, but received no reply, and as it was night-time they 
could not see him, and so they sat down and waited anxiously 
for the daylight Early in the morning they went to the 
Apulia ground, and there they found him dead and mutilated. 
For some time they mourned over him, and then they started 
to search for the missing parts, which, after a time, they found 
close to the Apulia. Then they lifted the body into a sitting 
position, placing it in a large pitchi, and replaced in their 
position the parts which had been cut off, and then after 
much crying, being hungry, they went away in search of 
food. Shortly afier their departure the man awoke as if 
from a dream, perfectly sound, but of course an Ulpmerka, for 
the old Ullakupera man had not operated upon him. He at 
once found the women's tracks and followed them to where they 
were eating Okranina, or snake, which was their totem. They 
were rejoiced to see him, and then all of them went into the 
earth, carrying their Churinga with them, and three stones 
arose to mark the spot where they went in. 

After killing the Echidna man and leaving behind one 
little hawk woman, who has no living representative, the party 
once more took wing and travelled on to Urangipa, where 
they found a lot of Kakwa men assembled at an Apulia 
ground. Here the old Intumpulla insisted upon performing 
Lartna. He also transformed a number of Inapertwa into 
human beings, and, so says tradition, being enamoured of the 
Kakwa women he decided to stay at Urangipa.and accordingly 
stayed there altc^ether, together with another Kumara man 
named Unchinia. The rest of the party went on under the 
leadership of the Bulthara man. For some distance they 
took wing and then came down to earth at the Mirra or 
camp of the Ullakupera, where they found a Yarumpa or 
honey-ant woman of the Panunga class, who had a Nurtunja 
which she did not wish the strangers to see. She did her 
best to drive them away, using abusive language, which verj- 
much annoyed the old Ullakupera man, who killed her with a 



spear, but did not interfere with her Nnrtnnja, which is now 
represented by a large gum tree. At this spot a Panunga 
man was left behind, and hence they travelled on to Urumbia, 
which lies to the north of the place which was named Anna's 
Reservoir by Stuart, the early explorer, during his journey 
across the continent This lies within the country of the 
Ilpirra tribe, and the party changed its langui^e to that of 
the Ilpirra. Here also they met with a numt^er of extra- 
ordinary - looking Jnapertwa creatures of the honey-ant 
totem, who were engaged in performing an Engwura 
ceremony. These they made into men and women, and then, 
leaving a Panunga woman behind, they went away, flying off 
towards the west to a place called Ungapirta, where they 
found Inapertwa of the Ullakupera totem, whom they 
transformed into human beings ; and then they all went into 
the ground, where the Churinga with their associated spirits 
ever after remained, so that at this place there is a large and 
important Oknanikilla or local centre of the Ullakupera 

It will be seen that there are two points of importance so far 
as these Ullakupera men and the work which they carried out 
is concerned. In the first place they introduced the use of a 
stone knife in place of the fire-stick' at the ceremony of 
circumcision. They were apparently not the only men who 
possessed stone knives, as the Echidna men are distinctly 
stated to have had them, and in the southern part of the tribe 
a i,\oman of the frog totem is said to have possessed one. 
Probably we have in this tradition an indication of a time 
when a more primitive method of cutting was retained in con- 
nection with a sacred ceremony than was used in the case of the 
ordinary operations of life.* In the southern Arunta tradition 

' We have Iranslated the wotil ura-ilyabara by the usual lerm Rre-stick. Id 
realily ilyabara means a piece of buk. 

' It is not perhaps without interest to note that even in savage tribes, soch as those 
of Central Australia, we meet with evidence of the remarkable way in which 
ancimt customs are preserved in connection with " sacred " riles. The retention 
of the fire-stick at circumcision after the use of stone implements was evidently 
known, finds its parallel in the retention of stone implements for the same operation 
after the use of iron was well known. Cf. Tylor, Earfy History of Mankind 
3rd Edit., 1878, p. 217, 

D D 



says that one day the men were, as usual, circumcising a boy 
with a fire-stick when an old woman rushed up and, telling 
the men that they were killing all the boys because they were 
using a fire-stick, showed them how to use a sharp stone, and 
ever afterwards the fire-stick was discarded. 

The second point of importance is the introduction of the 
class names, but it must be also noticed that there is no men- 
tion of any restrictions with regard to marriage connected 
with them, nor is any reason assigned for their introduction. 
In fact, as yet, we have no indication of any restrictions on 
marriage so far as either totems or classes are concerned, such 
restrictions we shall meet with in traditions referring to a later 
period in the history of the tribe. It will also be seen that 
there is no attempt to oflTer any explanation of the origin of 
the ceremony of circumcision, and in connection with this 
subject it may be noticed that, so far as the Arunta tribe is 
concerned, circumcision is represented as being practised 
upon men who are already provided with wives, and this, 
which is the earliest tradition dealing with the subject, gives 
no indication whatever of the reason for the fact that circum- 
cision is, at the present day, one of the most important cere- 
monies which must be passed through before any youth is 
allowed to have a wife. 

Concerned with the middle Alcheringa people, but coming 
at a later date than the Ullakupera men, who introduced the 
use of the stone knife at Lartna, we meet with traditions con- 
cerning certain early Achilpa, or wild cat men, who in their 
turn introduced the ceremony oi Ariltha, or sub-incision. 

Amongst the Achilpa there are four distinct groups, with 
regard to the doings of whom the natives have traditions as 

The first group started from a place called Okira, somewhere 
to the east of Wilyunpa, which itself lies on the Finke river, 
out to the east of the present telegraph station at Charlotte 
Waters. They carried with them a sacred pole called a Kauaua, 
which they erected at various stopping places. To this special 
ceremonial object, reference is made in the account of the 
Engwura ceremony, as it is always, and exclusively, used in 
connection with this. When during the course of their 



marchings they performed the rite of Arilthaor sub-incision 
they always erected a special Nurtunja. 

Leaving Okira the men came to Therierita, where they 
performed Ariltha, made Engwura, and left some members of 
the party behind them. Thence they went on to Atymikoala, 
a few miles to the east of Love's Creek, and there they 
performed quabara undattlta, that is a sacred ceremony con- 
cerned with one or other of the totems in connection with 
the decoration for which iindattka or bird's down is used. 
Each of the sacred ceremonies, as performed at the present 
day, is supposed to be the exact counterpart of one of these 
ceremonies of the Alcheringa. The Quabara Achilpa of Theri- 
erita, as a particular ceremony is now called, is, for example, 
the special ceremony which was performed on the occasion 
when the wild cat men visited Therierita, and the ceremony " 
was the special property of one member of the party. It was 
in this way— by their performance at certain particular spots — 
that the ceremonies became, each one of them, associated 
with these spots. 

From this resting place they marched on to Achilp-ilthunka, 
which means where the Achilpa was cut to pieces, and is close 
to the present Arltunga out in the eastern Macdonnell Ranges. 
Here they met a wild cat man who had come down from 
the salt water country away to the north. He is recorded as 
having been abnormally developed, and as having ravished and 
killed women all along his route. He was also atnarbita or 
foul-smelling, and intended going on to Therierita, but the 
Achilpa being enraged with him on account of his conduct, 
killed him and mutilated him, and a targe stone arose to mark 
the place where they buried him. Leaving this spot they 
marched on, driving enormous numbers of mosquitoes on in 
front of them. Tradition also says that they lived on 
L'njiamba, or Hakea flower, and that when they were thirsty 
they drank their own blood, as the natives often do at the 
present day. As they journeyed on they passed Unchipera- 
wartna, but did not see two women of the opossum totem 
who lived there, and then they reached a place now called 
Aurapuncha. Before, however, they came quite close up, they 
smelt Akakia or plum tree men, and as soon as they came 

D D 2 



into the bed of the creek they saw a number of men and boys 
eating plums. With them they stayed for some time, and after 
performing quabara undattka they went into the ground ; in 
other words they died, and after a time arose again, no longer 
as Achilpa men, but changed into Ulpmerka or uninitiated 
men of the Akakia or plum tree totem. Taking along with 
them the local Ulpmerka of the Akakia totem, the newly 
arisen Ulpmerka went on to a place called Erlua, somewhere 
in the neighbourhood of the Strangwaj- Range, and leaving at 
various spots a few members of their party behind them, so as 
to form Oknanikilla, they came at last to Arwura-puncha, 
where they met a large number of Ulpmerka men, who had 
come up from Quiumpa under the leadership of a celebrated 
man called Kukaitcha, and were carrying with them a large 
Nurtunja. The two parties Joined forces, and when they had 
performed quabara undattka they left two men behind and 
proceeded to Urangunja, where thej' found two women of 
the Urpura totem (magpie) who had a Nurtunja and owned 
certain ceremonies which they showed to the men. These 
women had their arms, heads and necks covered with fur- 
string and the tail-tips of the rabbit-kangaroo, called Alpita. 
which at the present day are always worn as a decoration by 
women at special ceremonies. The Ulpmerka camped here 
for some time performing sacred ceremonies, which, howeier. 
the women were not allowed to see. Leaving here they passed 
on to Ilchartwa-nynga, where they made a great Altherta — 
that is, an ordinarj' so-called corrobboree which has no sacred 
nature and may be seen and taken part in by women and the 
uninitiated — and here a large number of stones standing up 
on end arose and still exist to mark the spot where the 
Ulpmerka danced. They are now called Ulpmerka atnimma, 
that is the standing Ulpmerka. After this they journeyed on 
to Alawalla, which lies to the east of Central Mount Stuart, 
which, as its name implies, is situated in the very centre of the 
continent, and there they made Quabara, As they did so a 
curious phenomenon was witnessed — the Akakia trees shed 
their plums so thickly that it was just as if it were raining 
plums ; the fruit ran along the ground like a flood, and the 
Ulpmerka would have been drowned in them if they had not 



quickly gone into the ground and so made their escape. They 
emei^ed at liicharlinga on the Stirling Creek, where they 
performed ceremonies, and from here Kukaitcha led them 
right away north to the country of the salt water. 

The second group of Achilpa or wild cat people came from 
the country of the Luritcha tribe, far away to the south-west 
of, the present Arunta land, and camped at a place called 
Yungurra to the west of Henbury on the Finke river. The 
party was led by two Oknirabata, or wise old men, who on 
account of the abnormal development of their oi^ns were 
called Atnimvta-la-truripa. 

At Yungurra the party divided into two groups, one of the 
old men going with each of them. Of these two parties one 
will now be spoken of as the second and the other as the 
third group of the Achilpa. 

The second group crossed the Finke river about twelve 
miles south of Henbury, and travelled on to Imanda on the 
Hugh river, where they changed their language to the Arunta 
tongue. Like the first party they carried a sacred pole or 
Kauaua. On arriving at Imanda they found a large number 
of Unchichera (frc^), Elkintera (white bat), and UnchSpera 
(little bat) men who were eng<^ed in performing an Eng\vura 
■ceremony in which the new comers joined, the young men 
amongst the Achilpa being sent out daily into the bush 
along with those of the other totemic groups. The head of 
the Unchichera totem at this spot was also Atnimma-la- 
tntripa, and his name was Kartuputapa. The Achilpa 
remained for a long time at a spot close to Imanda, where 
they left some men behind them and so established an 
important Oknaiiikitla. When they left Imanda they were 
accompanied by Kartuputapa, and camped first at a big clay 
pan called Itnuna-twuna in the James Range, where they 
performed ceremonies and saw a Purula woman of the frc^ 
totem whose name was Umbalcha. She possessed a Ntirtunja 
and sacred ceremonies which she showed to the Achilpa, 
This woman had arisen in this spot. Then they travelled to 
Ooraminna, where they made an Engwura and discovered 
a number of men who were suffering from Eykineha — a 
disease common amongst the natives and concerning which 



there are certain traditions to which reference will be made 
subsequently. They also saw a number of Unjiamba (Hakea 
flower) men and women who had originated there, and also the 
two Unjiamba women who had come from Engwumanunga. 
After performing Ariltha upon the Unjiamba men and also 
upon some of their own young men, they performed the 
initiation ceremony called Atna ariltha-kuma upon the two 
women just referred to. At Ooraminna they left three men 
and here also Kartuputapa, the frog man, left the party 
and went back to his own country at Imanda. The wild 
cat men joumej-ed on to Urthipata, a swamp on the Kmily 
plain, journeying, as they went northwards, close by, but not 
actuallj- along, the tracks of the Unjiamba women who had 
travelled in the opposite direction. Here they made Eng^vura 
and found a man and woman both of whom belonged to the 
Unjiamba totem ; the man was a Purula and the woman a 
Kumara. Each of them possessed a Nurtunja and quabara 
undattlui, and when the Achilpa men attempted to interfere 
with the woman they could not do so because of her quabara. 
Leaving here they were seen by a Purula man of the 
witchettj- grub totem > who had originated in the locality, 
but as he hid himself the Achilpa did not see him. 

The next camping place was at a small hill on the Emily 
Plains on the top of which a stone arose to mark the spot ; 
here they made Amptirtamtrra^ that is a long series of 
ceremonies concerned xvith the Achilpa totem, and then they 
went on to Okirra-kulitha, a depression in the Macdonnell 
Range a little to the east of the Emily gap. They camped 
right on the top of the range, performed quabara undattfia, 
and also the rite oi Ariltka on some of their young men, and 
then went on eastwards for five or six miles to a hill called 
Irpai-chinga near to the Emily Creek and performed some 
more ceremonies. Here they noticed plenty of witchetty 
grubs, feeding on grass, but they did not interfere with them 

1 This is one of ihe very few cases in which the Alcherii^ HilcheHj- grabs were 
not Pununga or Bukhara. 

' Various tolems have a name similar to ihis which is applied to a loi^ series cf 
ceremonies concerned with thai special totem. In the owl totem, for examjile, i 
it Laltinfa. 



and went on to Achilpa-interninja, a hil! about two miles 
away from the Emily soakage. Owing to the breaking 
of the string with which a bundle was tied tc^ether, 
they lost a small Churinga, from which sprung afterwards a 
Purula man named Uttanchika, whose descendant now lives at 
Alice Springs ; then they went on to Okilla-la-tunga, a plain 
amongst the ranges, and there found a Purula woman of the 
Unjiamba totem whose name also was Unjiamba, and who 
possessed a Nurtunja and quabara undaliha, which she 
showed to the Achilpa men, who danced round her Nurtunja 
and then showed her their quabara undattha. Then they 
went on to Ulir-ulira, which means the place where blood 
flowed like a creek, and is a water-pool on the Todd Creek. 
The young men opened veins in their arms and gave draughts 
of blood to the old men, who were very tired. Ever 
afterwards the water at this spot was tinted with a reddish 
colour; indeed it is so at the present day. After ^ain making 
Ampurtanurra they journeyed on and came to a place called 
Ertua, where they saw two women of the Ertua (wild turkey) 
totem, one a Purula named Ulknatawa, who had a little boy 
child, and the other a Kumara. An old Kumara man of the 
same totem lived with these women, but was out hunting at 
the time. His name was Arungurpa, and he was the husband 
of the Purula woman. The women had neither Nurtunja nor 
quabara undattha-i Passing on, the Achilpa camped at 
Arapera, a big stone hill to the east of Bond Springs, where 
they stopped for some time making Engwura and performing 
Ariltha. Here they found a Purula woman of the Achilpa 
totem whose name was Ariltha-mariltha, and who has a 
descendant now living. She had a large Nurtmija which was 
erected and stood so high that it was seen by the Achilpa 
from a long way off. The ^voman showed her quabara 
undaltha, and they afteniards performed Atua ariltha-kuma 
upon her, and then all of them had intercourse with her. At 
this spot they left one man, a Kumara named Achilpa, whose 
descendant is now alive. Leaving Arapera they reached 
Ilchinga and, being tired, camped for a few hours, the old 
men painting the newly-made Urliara with long parallel lines 
from the feet to the head. Here they found a Bulthara 



woman of the Unjjamba totem named Cho-urka, who had 
a Nurtunja and qtiabara undattka, and whose Nanja was a 
lai^e stone which can still be seen. With her they did not 
interfere, but after a short rest inarched on to a place called 
Ungwurna-la-warika, which means " where the bone was 
struck," because here one of the men while swinging a 
Churinga accidentally struck another man on the shin with it. 
At this spot they found two Bulthara women of the Unjiamba 
totem, one named Choarka-wuka, and the other Abmoara, who 
possessed Niirtunjas and quabara undattka, which they showed 
to the Achilpa, One Purula man was left behind here. 
Walking on they came to Ilchi-lira, where they mxie quabara 
and found two men of the Unjiamba totem, one a Bukhara 
named Wultaminna, and the other a Kumara named 
Ungarulinga, the last descendant of whom has recently died. 
There was here another Unjiamba man whom they did not 
see. They also saw one Unjiamba woman, a Bulthara. All 
these people had Nurttinjas and sacred ceremonies, and had 
originated on the spot. The Achilpa left behind them one 
Purula man. 

The next stopping place was Ituka-intura, a hill at the 
head of the Harry Creek, where they found a lai^e number of 
Achilpa men and women with whom they mixed. These 
people were of all classes and had sprung up on the spot. 
After having performed Ariltha upon a great number of men 
and made Engwura they left the local Achilpa behind and 
marched on to Arara. Here they remained for a long time 
and made Engwura ; when doing this the Kauaiia, or sacred 
pole, was always erected and made to lean in the direction in 
which they intended to travel. Starting on their travels once 
more they came near to a sjxit on the Harry Creek where they 
first smelt, and then saw, some Achilpa men who were suffering 
from Erkinclui. These men had no women, but close to them 
lived two Unjiamba women, both of whom were Panunga. 
The latter hid themselves on the approach of the Achilpa and 
so escaped being seen by them. One of them was called 
Thai-interinia, and has a living descendant. After seeing the 
men with Erkimha the party moved on and camped on a 
tableland close by, where they found an Unjiamba woman 



named Ultundurinia, who has now a living descendant. 
Marching on towards the west, they reached Ungunja and 
found there a Fanunga man of the Unjiamba totem, whose 
name was Ultatntika, who is now represented by a living 
descendant. Then they followed the course of the Harry 
Creek to Apunga, until finally they came out on to the Burt 
Plain which lies just to the north of the Macdonnell Ranges. 
Here there was no water and the old men were very thirsty ; 
they dug for water without finding any and the holes which 
they dug out remain to the present day. The young men 
again bled themselves, but the blood was too hot to drink, so 
some of them were sent back to Ituka-intura to bring water 
which they carried back in their shields. While the young men 
were away, the old men dug out holes in the sand and lay down 
in them as wild dogs do. At this spot they found a Purula 
womanoftheQuirra(bandicoot) totem who had a. Nurtiinja,ind 
is now represented by a living descendant. They also found a 
Fanunga man of the same totem named Chimurinia, who also 
has a living descendant. Hence they moved on northwards to 
a big clay pan called Ilthwarra, where they performed A ri/tAa 
upon a number of their young men and made Engwura. 
While travelling on from here they cros.sed the Hamm Range 
at a gap where they saw an old Bulthara man of the 
Undathirka (carpet-snake) totem named Kapirla who lived 
entirely upon carpet-snakes. The Achilpa men passed on and 
camped at Ilchinia-pinna, a little to the north of the range 
and here they made Engwura and every night heard the 
sound of distant Nammatwinnas (or small bull-roarers). 
Thence they went to Utachuta, a little to the west of what is 
now called Ryans Well, where they found a large number of 
Quirra or bandicoot men who were engaged in making an 
Engwura. The Kaiiaua which these men had erected was 
visible from some distance, and it was from this place that the 
sounds of the bull-roarers had come. The Achilpa and 
Quirra men mixed together and joined in the Engwura, the 
old men of both parties sending the young men out into the 
bush every day. The rite of Arilt/ia was performed on all of 
the Quirra men and also on some of the .\chilpa, and it is 
stated that the Quirra men consisted of all classes. 



When the ceremonies were completed, the Achilpa men 
journeyed on to Inta-tella-warika and, being too tired to 
carry it, dragged the Kauaiia behind them. At this place 
they found an old Fanunga man of the Achilpa totem who 
had a large Nurtunja, and who, on seeing them approach, 
opened avein in his arm and thus flooding thecountry,drowned 
the Achilpa men in blood ; a large number of stones sprang 
up to mark the spot, and they still remain to show where the 
men went into the ground. The men carried with them a 
very large number of Churinga, which are now in the sacred at Inta-tella-warika. 

The third party of Achilpa or wild cat people consisted of 
one division of the original group which came out of the 
country now occupied by the Luritcha tribe, and split into 
two after arriving at Yungurra. 

Under the direction of a Kumara man who wa.s Atnitiitita- 
la-truripa, the men took a north-westerly course, crossed the 
Finke river just where it emeiges from the long Finke goi^e, 
through which, hemmed in between lofty wails of quartzite, it 
passes from north to south across the James Range, and 
camped at Urapitchera near to a spot now called Running 
Waters. Here they erected the Kauaua, which they carried 
with them, and made an Engwura. At this place they found 
a number of Inturrita (pigeon) men and women of all classes 
who were cannibals. The Achilpa people saw them eating 
human flesh, and two large round Churinga which are 
presented in the sacred store-house at Urapitchera represent 
the heads of men who were eaten. 

The Inturrita killed their victims with long stone Churinga 
about the size of, and shaped like, the beaked boomerangs of 
the Warramunga tribe. At this spot the Achilpa changed 
their language to that of the Arunta people, and, leaving a 
Purula man behind them, passed on to Itnunthawarra in the 
present Waterhouse Range, where they camped for a short 
time and performed ceremonies. Travelling slowly north- 
^\-ards amongst the ranges they came to Iruntira on the 
Hugh river, where they left one man, a Bulthara whose name 
was Iruntirinia. Then they came to Okir-okira, a place ten 
miles to the north-west of the present Owen Springs, and 



thence travelled on to the junction of the Jay and Hugh 
where there was a Panunga woman living who showed them 
her ceremonies. She belonged to the Alk-na-innira (a large 
beetle) totem. The Achilpa in return showed the woman 
some of their ceremonies and did not interfere with her. 
Leaving her, the Achilpa followed up the Jay Creek to 
Chelperla, where some time was spent in performing Am- 
purtanurra^ and where the old leader remained behind. 
At this spot many of the partj- developed Erkinclia. 
Journeying on thej- came to Mount Conway, a bold loftj- 
bluff in the Macdonnell Ranges, and close to its base 
they rested for a few hours before attempting the steep 
ascent. Then they crossed the mountain and camped at 
Ningawarta, a little wa)- over on the northern side of the 
range, and here they performed ceremonies. Their next 
stopping place was Alia (the nose), a sharply outlined hill in 
the most northern of the series of parallel ridges which all 
ti^ether form the Macdonnell Ranges. At this place thej' 
made Engwura and while the young men, who were being 
initiated, were out in the bush, they came across a Purula 
woman of the Ulchilkinja (wattle seed) totem, with whom, 
contrar>- to one of the most rigid rules by whii.;h the Engwura 
is governed, and without the knowledge of the old men, they 
all had intercourse. At Alia, two men who were Kumara 
were left behind, and the part>- \vent on to Kuringbungwa, 
and as, when thej- reached there, some of the old men were 
getting very thin, the younger men opened veins in their 
arms and, to strengthen them, gave them large draughts of 
blood, by which treatment thej- were much benefited. At 
Enaininga, a waterhole on the Jay Creek, they performed the 
rite of Ariltha upon a number of young men, leaving un- 
touched those who were suffering froin Erkincha. Further on, 
at Iranira, they again performed the rite oi Ariltha, and here 
they left one man called Unatta who was a Purula. Then 
they went on to Okinchalanina, where they performed 
ceremonies, and elaborately painted the backs of all the men. 
They stayed here a short time making Okinchalanina 
(necklets), kidclua (armlets), and uliara (forehead bands), and 
when they again started to march on they left one man, a 



; .. "^.i. bt;h:nd them, as he was too ill with Erkinc/ui to walk 
% ■, ■■.'H.T. They considered that the unlawful intercourse 
,t :i-v *att(e seed woman had spread the disease and 
■^..■tr<>: t?wir sufferings.* Still travelling amongst the 
. i^-.-^ ■,*w>" camped at various places, at one of which, called 
.:'i'k.i which means running like a creek, the old men 

■ vif ii;i:'i nourished with blood given to them by the young 
.1 '. I ^J\nng behind them an old Panunga man who was 

.,■ i-'-iti; rrv^in Erkinclia, they travelled on to Ilartwiura, a 

. >,i.''Kic i.>n the Jay Creek, and erecting their Kmiaua, they 

v.i.<'iiv\i sacred ceremonies, a large rockhole now marking 

v s-vt where the Kauaua stood. Some more men 

^..■■.•►.■wi Erkmcha here. At their last stopping place 

v..;;-;: the ranges they stayed some little time, making 

., '.,■•. murra and performing Ariltlia, and then they crossed 

■c trvst northerly of the rocky ridges amongst the Mac- 

■■ .h.-;' Ranges, and came down on to the Burt Plain which 

-^ivic'Vs faraway to, the north. At Alpirakircha they found 

i -ii.; Kumara man of the Achilpa totem named Alpirakir- 

, "ai-'ia. who had originated there and had a very large 

■. . i'u'li which they had been able to see from the top of 

I V a-it ridge which they had crossed. They performed Ariltka 

K1V upon a number of young men, including the local 

v,;>:'tx> man, and also made Engwura. Leaving the man in 

!,■» c^mp, they went on to the west, away down the Burt Plain, 

. N! »«t two Achilpa women who had originated there. One 

...vs a Purula and the other a Kumara, and they had a 

\ it-SuHJa which they hid away when they saw the Achilpa 

;iv-n coming. Without interfering with the women, the men 

^.(.■nj>ed and performed certain ceremonies, and then went on 

■ ■ I'ngatha where a man was left behind named Ungutharinia. 
',>is man, like many of the party, was suffering from 
y-iiiuha ; at the present day he is represented by a living 
A-*cendant whose secret name is, of course, Ungatharinia. 

Being now very tired the men went underground and 

< that they reasonei] fruiii h strictly niedical point of view ; 

lis kind is that a man sufTerinf; from Erkiacha conveys ■ 
hich they call Aniiigijiiiltha, lo the women, and by this 
s a punishment, to olhei men. 



followed a northerly course until they came to Udnirringintwa. 
where they made a great Engwura, Many of the party died 
herefrom ^y^/«<r/fff,and a large numberofChuringa representing 
them are in the local store-house. A large sand hill also 
arose to mark the spot where the Parra, that is the long low 
mound always made on the Engwura ground, was raised, and 
this hill can be seen at the present day. The surviving 
members of the party — still a large one — went once more 
into the ground and came out again at Alkirra-lilima, where 
they camped for a long time and maA^ Ampurtanurra. They 
found there an old man of the Panunga class and Unjiamba 
totem whose name was Alkaiya, and who had a big Nurtiiitja 
and owned quabara undattha. Here again more men developed 
Erkincha. Travelling now above ground, they came to 
Achichinga in the vicinity of Mount Wells, where dwelt an 
old Panunga man of the Unjiamba totem, whose name was 
Achiching^rinia. He possessed a large Nurtunja which the 
leader of the Achilpa men tried to take by force, but the old 
man clung to it so closely, and made such a very loud arii- 
iiikuma ' that he «-as forced to desist. 

The party here made quabara undattha and changed its 
language to Achicha, which is a mixture of the Ilpirra and 
Kaitish tongues. Turning round they looked back upon 
their tracks and all said " We have come very far." 

Leaving here they passed Parachinta, without seeing the 
Ullakupera and»Quirra people who dwelt there, and camped 
at Appulya, north of Parachinta, and close by here saw an 
old Bulthara man of the Irritcha (eagle hawk) totem, who 
was out hunting and so had not got his Nurtunja with him, 
but when he saw the Achilpa men he ran back to his own 
country. Ariltha was performed upon some of the young 
men, and an Engwura was made. Then they went on to 
Arrarakwa, on Woodeforde Creek, where they found a 

> This is a loud sound made by shouting au-au-OM repeatedly, while the 
hand is held with the fingers slightly bent, and the palm towaids the face, and 
moved ra[ndly backwards and forwards upon the wrist in front of Ibe mouth. It 
is frequenlly used by the natives to attract the attention of any one at a distance. 
During the Engwura ceremony, for example, it was the s^nal used to catt up (he 
men who had been away from the ground while the ceremony was being 



Panunga man of the Achilpa totem who was busily engaged 
in making a Nurtiinja. Upon him and others they performed 
Ariltha, and then, for some time, they camped at a spot 
higher up the creek making Ampnrtannrra. At this part, the 
creek has a steep, high bank, which arose to mark the exact 
spot where the Kauaua rested against it before being erected. 
Here they left a Bulthara man and then went on to a place on 
the Hanson Creek, to the south-west of Central Mount Stuart, 
where they found an old Bulthara man of the Yarumpa 
(honey-ant) totem who was sitting by the side of a Kauaua, 
and they learned that Engwura ceremonies had just been 
made, and that all the young men were out in the bush. By 
and by they returned, and then the two parties mixed 
tt^ther, and the Achilpa performed Ariltha upon all the 
Yarumpa, including young and old men, and then commenced 
another Engwura which they did not wait to complete, but, 
leaving the Yarumpa people to finish it, they started on their 
journey and travelled on to Kurdaitcha, a spot to the west of 
Central Mount Stuart, where dwelt a large number of Achilpa 
of all classes who had originated there. After performing 
Ariltha upon alt of them, the two parties mixed together and 
made a big Engwura. Going still further on, they met with a 
number of men and women belonging to all classes and to 
the Intilyapa-yapa (water beetle) totem, close to whom they 
camped, but without mixing with them. At a place called 
Okinyumpa an accident befell them whicV> made them all 
feel very sad ; as they were pulling up the Kauaua which was 
very deeply implanted the old Oknirabata, who was leading 
them, broke it offjust above the ground, and to the present 
day.a tall stone standing up above the ground at this spot 
represents the broken, and still implanted, end of the pole. 

Carrying on the broken Kauaua they came to Unjiacherta, 
which means "the place of Unjiamba men " and lies near to the 
Hanson Creek. They arrived here utterly tired out, and found 
a number of Unjiamba men and women of all classes. They 
were too tired and sad to paint themselves, their Kauaua in 
its broken state was inferior to many of those which the 
Unjiamba people had, so they did not erect it, but, lying down 
together, died where they lay. A large hill, covered with big 



stones, arose to mark the spot. Their Churinga, each with its 
associated spirit individual, remained behind. Many of them 
are very large and long, and are now in the Ertnatulunga 
or store-house at Unjiacherta. 

The fourth party of Achilpa or wild cat people was led by a 
Purula man who was remarkable for his strength and abnormal 
development, in which respect he is reported to have exceeded 
the celebrated Atnimma-la-truripa. He came from the 
country now inhabited by the Luritcha people, far away to the 
south-west of the Arunta, and brought with him two Panunga 
women. He had a Kauaua, and carried under each arm a 
lai^e bundle called Unkapera which, when he arrived at 
Erloacha, a place situated to the west of Hermannsburg on 
the Finke river, he opened. They contained a great number 
of men of various ages. After the parcels had been opened, 
a great Engwura was made, in which they all took part, and, 
after remaining here for a long time, they left two men behind, 
one a Panunga and the other a Purula, and then they travelled 
on. The old Purula who was leading them travelled at some 
little distance to one side of the main party, and his progress 
was slow owing to the size of his penis, which frequently struck 
the ground, digging furrows in it as he went along. While 
travelling they met at Yapilpa, a place now called Glen Helen 
Gorge, a party of Unthippa or dancing women, who were 
approaching from the west, dancing all the way along. 
With them the Achilpa men did not interfere but passed on, 
crossed the range, and then camped at Ulpmaltwitcha, a water- 
hole lying a little to the west of the position of Mount Sonder. 
After making quabara undatika they went on and crossed 
Mount Sonder, which is one of the highest peaks in the 
Macdonnell Ranges. While crossing they saw an old Illuta 
(bandicoot) man making large wooden pitckis, and therefore 
they called the place Urichipma, which means "the place of 
pitchis." * Here they paused and, presumably from the summit 
from which a very extensive view is to be obtained, looked 
back to see their tracks and a row of stones arose and still 

* The natives of ihis part of the cauntiy EU'e noted for the large pilchis, or 
wooden troughs, which they make out of the wood of the bean tiee {Erythrina 



remains to mark the spot. They went on and camped at 
Kurupma, north of Glen Helen, and after holding an Engwura, 
they left one man, an old Punila named KurupmarJnia, whose 
aged descendant now lives there and has chaise of the 
store-house and Engwura ceremonies. 

Leaving here they proceeded to Poara, where thej- per- 
formed Ariitha and made Engwura,and where they also found 
a number of women of the Kakwa (hawk) totem, all of whom 
were Purula and some of whom were called Illapuri?ija} These 
women had a Nurtunja and sacred ceremonies which they 
showed to the Achilpa men. The old leader of the latter 
had intercourse with a great number of the women, many of the 
younger ones dying in consequence. The Urliara, that is the 
fully initiated men who had been through the Engwura, were also 
allowed access to them. Leaving behind several men of the 
Kumara and Purula classes the men, being ashamed of their 
excesses, started before daylight and travelled on to Irpung- 
arthra, a water-hole on a creek running northwards. Here they 
camped and found a Purula woman of the Arawa totem. She 
had no Nurtunja but was in possession of several wooden 
Churinga which she hid away on the approach of the party. 
Here they made quabara undattha, which the woman was 
allowed to see, and afterwards Ariitha was performed upon 
some members of the party. Journeying on, they came to 
Al-iemma, a water-hole in one of the gorges which are often 
met with in this part of the country, and here they found a 
numberofKakwa (hawk) women and men who were all Purula 
and Kumara, and with whom they did not mix. The}' 
camped apart from them and then moved on to Ariitha, 
where they changed their language to the Ilpirra tongue and 
camped here for a long time, finding again a number of hawk 
men and women all of the same classes as before. Here the 
old leader caused his abnormal development to disappear and 
he became like an ordinary man, and then the travelling and 
resident groups mixed together. After the performance of 
Ariitha, a big Engwura was made, the women, as at the 
present day, making fur-string necklaces and armlets. 
Thence they went on to a place in the scrub not far from Lake 
' Ilalpurinja means "Ihe chang"! one." 



Macdonald, where they found as before another lot of hawk 
men and women. Here they performed ceremonies and left 
one Kumara man whose descendant is now living. Then they 
went to Irincha, a large clay pan, where they found a Panunga 
man of the Irpunga (fish) totem who was engaged in catching 
fish, of which the water was full. They were afraid of the 
number of fish in the water and did not Interfere with the 
man, whose name was Ungunawungarinia, but camped a little 
distance away, making Ampvrtanurra, and stayed here a long 
time. Then they went on to Alknalilika, a spot lying to the 
south of Anna's Reservoir, where they found a number of 
Tuikara (quail) women who had no Nurtunja or Churinga 
and lived entirely on Intwuta, a kind of grass seed. Upon 
seeing these women the Achilpa men hid away their Kauaua 
and all had intercourse with them. Without performing any 
ceremonies they went on to Inkuraru, where Ariltha was 
performed upon a number of the party, A number of 
Churinga were deposited in a mulga tree close to the 
camp, where they still remain, and a large stone arose at 
the spot where Ariltha was performed. After crossing 
one range they came to another lying away to the north 
and called Irti-ipma, where was a large waterhole. Here 
they camped, made quahara undattkq and left orte man, 
a Bulthara, and then journeyed on, meeting a woman 
of the Tchanka (bull-dog ant) totem who was a kind of 
Oruncha ("devil-devil") creature of whom they were much 
afraid, thinking that she might bite them. She had neither 
Nurtunja nor Churinga, and giving her a wide berth they 
went on to Kuntitcha, where they camped and found a 
large number of Quirra (bandicoot) men who were unable 
to walk, in fact they were creatures like the Inaperfwa, 
All of these were killed, and then Ariltha was performed 
and an Engwura held. One man, a Purula named 
Kuntitcharinia, was left behind whose descendant is still 

Tradition says that from here they journeyed northwards 
and finally stopped in the countiy of the salt water forming 
Oknanikilla or local totem centres as they travelled along. 



The Later Alcheringa 

We have already seen that, according to the traditions of 
the middle Alcheringa, there were no restrictions to marri^e 
such as now obtain. At Urthipita, for example, a Purula man 
and a Kumara woman, both of the Unj'iamba (Hakea flower) 
totem, are represented as having been found living tc^ether 
by the Achilpa people. Again at Ertua there lived two 
Ertua or wild turkey women, one of whom is expressly 
stated to have had a child, and to have been the wife of 
an old Kumara man of the same totem ; and at other 
places groups of hawk men and women, all of the Purula 
and Kumara classes, who may not now marry one another, are 
represented as living together. 

The class names had been given in the first place by the 
Ullakupera men who had traversed the country prior to the 
advent of the Achilpa. It looks much as if the traditions 
relating to the middle Alcheringa were concerned with a 
people whose organisation and marriage system were very 
different from those of the present Arunta tribe. The 
traditions as we know them now cannot, in respect to this 
matter, be simply explained by supposing that the references 
to the classes and totqms are due to the fact that they have 
grown up amongst a people who have these class and totem 
names. If it were nothing more than this, then we should 
not expect to find such specific references to the living 
ti^ether of Purula and Kumara men and women, which is 
exactly the reverse of what now takes place, and is, hy the 
natives, regarded as having taken place ever since the later 
Alcheringa times. It seems as if the traditions can only be 
explained on the supposition that the class names which were 
given by the Ullakupera men entailed restrictions upon 
marriage, but restrictions which were of a different kind from 
those introduced at a later period. What these restrictions 
were, it does not seem possible to gather from the traditions 
concerned with the early and middle Alcheringa times, and 
there do not appear to be any now known to the natives 
which throw any light upon the matter, though perhaps the 
constant reference to the class and totem names may be 



regarded as evidence that restrictions of some nature did 
exist. One thing appears to be quite clear, and that is, that 
we see in these early traditions no trace whatever of a time 
when the totems regulated marriage in the way now 
characteristic of many of the Australian tribes. There is not 
a solitary fact which indicates that a man of one totem must 
marry a woman of another ; on the contrary we meet 
constantly, and only, with groups of men and women of the 
same totem living together ; and, in these early traditions, 
it appears to be the normal condition for a man to have as 
wife a woman of the same totem as himself At the same 
time there is nothing to show definitely that marital relations 
were prohibited between individuals of different totems, 
though, in regard to this, it must be remembered that the 
instances recorded in the traditions, in which intercourse took 
place between men and women of different totems, are all 
concerned with the men of special groups, such as the 
Achilpa ; further still, it may be pointed out that these were 
powerful groups who are represented as marching across 
country, imposing certain rites and ceremonies upon other 
people with whom they came in contact. The intercourse of 
the Achilpa men with women of other totems may possibly 
have been simply a right, forcibly exercised by what may be 
r^arded as a conquering group, and may have been subject 
to no restrictions of any kind. 

As to the people with whom the Achilpa came into contact, 
and whom they found settled upon the land, the one most 
striking and at the same time most interesting fact, is, as just 
stated, that a man was free to marry a woman of his own 
totem (as he is at the present day), and further still we may 
even say that the evidence seems to point back to a time 
when a man always married a woman of his own totem. 
The references to men and women of one totem always living 
tc^ether in groups would appear to be too frequent and 
explicit to admit of any other satisfactory explanation. We 
never meet with an instance of a man living with a woman 
who was not of his own totem ^ as we surely might expect to 

wilh ihose groups with whom Ihe vaiious wandering 
Ihe menitiers of all wandering parties appear to have 
less fieely wilh wumen of olher tolems. 

E E 2 



do if the form of the traditions were simply due to their 
having grown up amongst a people with the present organisa- 
tion of the Arunta trih>e. It is only, during these early times, 
when we come into contact with a group of men marching 
across strange country that we meet, as we might expect to 
do, with evidence of men having intercourse with women 
other than those of their own totem. 

Turning now to the later Alcheringa period, we find that 
it was after the time of the Ungambikula, the Ullakupera 
and the Achilpa, that the ot^anisation now in vogue was 
adopted. The present system of marriage, and a proper 
understanding of the class system, is traditionally ascribed to 
the wisdom of the Erlia (emu) people of four widely separated 
localities. The Oknirabata, or great leader of the Thurathertwa 
group, living near to what is, now called Glen Helen in the 
Macdonnetl Range, proposed a system which permitted of 
Panunga men marrying Purula women, and of Bukhara men 
marrying Kumara women, and vice versa. According to 
this, men and women who now stand in the relation of 
Unkulla, as well as those standing in the present relation 
of Unawa, could marry each other. His proposal was carried 
out in his immediate neighbourhood, and he was also 
supported by the Oknirabata of the southern emu people 
living at a place called Umbachinga. 

The Oknirabata of the Ulalkira and Uriiipma groups, who 
lived about one hundred miles to the north, were what is 
called Charunka, which means very wise, and they said that 
it was not good for Unkulla to marry. At a meeting between 
them and the two other Oknirabata, it was decided that the 
plan of the northern men was the better one, and made, as 
the natives say, things go straight, and it was decided to adopt 
the new system. 

Tradition says that the Oknirabata of one of the northern 
emu groups living at Uriiipma, sent out Inwurra, that is 
messengers carrying the sacred Churinga, to summon the 
people from all directions. They assembled at Uriiipma, 
which is situated in the country of the Ilpirra tribe away to 
the north of the Macdonnell Range, and were led thence by 
the Oknirabata, whose name was Ungwumalitha, to Apaura, 
now called the Belt Range, where a great Engwura was held. 


Afterthis was over all the people stood up, each man with his 
wife or wives behind him, and those who were wrongly united 
were separated, and the women were allotted to their proper 
Unawa men, The old man Ungwurnalitha presided at the 
Engwura, and he was assisted by old emu men of Ulalkira, 
Thuratherita, Umbuchinia and other places, alt of whom had 
agreed with him that the change should be introduced. 

The intermarrying halves stood in the relationship of Unawa 
to each other, this term being a reciprocal one, while the other 
halves were UnkuUa to each other. Thus if we take the case 
of a Panunga man, under the old system all Purula women 
were eligible to him as wives, but under the new one only- 
half of the Purula were Unawa to him, and half were Unkulla-; 
with the former, or rather with those of them assigned to him, 
he might have marital relations, but the latter were strictly 
forbidden to him. 

Taking all these traditions together we' can see in them 
indications, more or less clear, of the following stages which 
are supposed by the natives to have been passed through in the 
development of the tribe so far as its organisation and certain 
important customs are concerned. 

We have : — 

(i.) A period during which two individuals who lived in 
the western sky, and were called Ungambikula, came down 
to earth and transformed Inapertwa creatures into human 
beings whose totem names were naturally those of the animals 
or plants out of which they were transformed. The Ungam- 
bikula also performed the rite of circumcision on certain, 
but not all, of the men, using for this purpose a fire-stick. 

(2.) A period during which the Ullakupera or little hawk 
men introduced the use of the stone knife during circum- 
cision. In addition they carried on the work commenced by 
the Ungambikula of transforming Inapertwa creatures into 
human beings, and further still, they introduced the class 
names now in use, viz, Panunga, Purula, Bulthara, Kumara. 
We may presume that along with the introduction of the 
class names there was instituted in connection with them 
some system of marriage regulations, but what exactly this 
was, there is not sufficient evidence to show. 



(3.) A period, following closely upon the latter, during 
which the Achilpa or wild cat men introduced the rite of 
Ariltka or sub- incision. It is said of the Achilpa, also, that 
they arranged the initiation ceremonies in their proper order, 
first circumcision, then sub-incision, and lastlythe Engwura. 

(4.) A period during which, first of all, the marriage system 
was changed owing to the influence of certain Ertia or emu 
people, with the result that Purula men might marry Panunga 
women, Bukhara men Kumara women, and vice versa. 
Secondly, and at a later period, each of these classes was 
divided into two, so that, to a Panunga man, for example, 
only half of the Purula women were eligible as wives, the 
other half being Unkulla or forbidden to him. 

It is not without interest to note that, according to tradition, 
the emu men who introduced the division of the classes now 
in use, lived away to the north, because the adoption of the 
distinctive names for the eight groups thus created is at 
the present time taking place in the Arunta tribe, and, as a 
matter of actual fact, these eight names did originate in the 
north, and are now slowly spreading southwards through the 



^■asO < 




S/itwirtg tpproximitely 
occupied by the tribes 



: Udnirringita totem — Alice Springs gipup consists of forty individuals at the 

present day — EmilyGap the centre of the totem — Wanderings of Udnirringita 

eople from various places into the Gap — The wanderii^ of two women^A 

mdicoot woman perfonns Ariitha on nn Unjiamba woman, and then changes 

^ ..le totem of the latter--Two women join the wandering Uipmerka men and 

/, travel on with Kukaitcha northwards— Wanderings of the wild dogs— Two 

'c^ young men steal the two Churinga of an old man, who pursues them to 

~lSi hlount Gillen— They kill and eat wild dog people— The old man is killed on 

'^''■. Mount Gillen— The youi^ men travel to the north and go down into the 

ground — Wanderings of two Unjiamba women — Travel southwards and 

' stop at Ooraminna — Wanderings of emu, honey-ant and lizard men — The 

Uiitkippa women^Give rise to deposits of red ochre — Line of hills arise to 

mark their route — ^The ITnthippads.Tizit^'. circumcision^Tradition of Erkincha 

— Tradition of the snake of Imyunga — The fire tolem — Origin of fire — The 

Orunehirlwa and the O^miVhAj/ii— Association of birds with particular totems. 

The Udnirringita or Witchetty Grub Totem 

The most important group of the Udnirringita totem is 

cated in the neighbourhood of Alice Springs in the northern 

^irt of the Macdonnell Ranges, and consists all told — men, 

men and children — of forty individuals, which is the 

jest number, in any one local group, with which we are 

xjuainted. The totemic name is derived from that of a 

ub or lar\~a, which in turn derives its name from a bush 

died Udnirringa, upon which the insect feeds and deposits 

ti».p * ^gs. The bush bears a berry of which emus are very 


The Udnirringita people in this locality occupy a tract 
of country which is about loo square miles in extent, and 
through the centre of which runs a range of often lofty hills, 



amongst which occur the gaps or gorges with which they arc 
especially associated. The western boundary of their counti}- 
is co-terminous with the eastern wall of the gap called by the 
natives Untariipa, and by the whites the Heavitree Gap. 
The eastern boundary is formed by the Adnurinia or Jessie 

At various places throughout this district Udnirringita 
people originated in the Alcheringa from their animal ances- 
tors, and these Alcheringa people deposited Churinga at 
various spots during the course of their wanderings, or where 
they originated. The Alcheringa Udnirringita people, both 
men and women, are supposed to have been full of eggs, 
which are now represented by rounded water-worn stones, 
many of which are stored in the Ertnatulunga at the various 
gaps, and are called Churinga Unchima. Every prominent, 
and many insignificant natural features throughout this strip 
of country — the most picturesque" part of the great central 
area of the continent — has some history attached to it. For 
example, a gaunt old gum tree, with a large projecting bole 
about the middle of the trunk, indicates the exact spot where 
an Alcheringa man, who was very full of eggs, arose when 
he was transformed out of a witchetty grub. When he died 
his spirit part remained behind along with his Churinga, and 
used to especially frequent this tree, and therefore, when that 
spirit went inside a woman of the local group and was re- 
incarnated in the form of a man who died a few years ago, 
that special tree was the Nanja tree of that man. An insig- 
nificant looking splinter of black, gneissic rock, projecting 
from the ground at another spot, indicates the exact place 
at which a woman of the Alcheringa arose whose living 
reincarnation — an old woman — is now to be seen at Alice 

Emily Gap, or, as it is called by the natives, Unthurqua, is, 
probably, owing to its central position, the most important 
spot in the Udnirringita country. It is a narrow gorge not 
more than a hundred yards from end to end and about thirty 
in width, hemmed in by precipitous rocks of red quartzite, 
and runs from north to south right across the long ridge 
which, for some 200 miles, bounds the Horn or Mercenie valley 



on its southern side. Within a radius of two miles of this 
gap there are eight or ten holes, varying from three to five 
feet in depth, which are supposed to have been sunk, in the first 
instance, by the Alcheringa men. They are called Ilthura, 
and are strictly tabu to women and children, who must not on 
any pretence go near to them, and their exact locality is well 
known to all of the members of the local group. Each hole 
contains, carefully covered over, one large stone called 
Ckuringa Uchaqua, which represents the witchetty in its 
chrysalis stage, and a smaller, more rounded stone, called 
Ckuringa Unchima, which represents the egg stage. 

It was Just within the northern entrance to the gorge, at 
a spot marked now by a lai^e stone, close to which stands 
the trunk of an old and long since dead gum tree, that the 
great Alcheringa leader of the witchetties, who was named 
Intwailiuka, sprang into existence. With him and with the 
people whose leader he was many of the natural features of 
the gorge are, as we shall shortly see, associated in tradition. 

The stone has since been associated with the spirit, not only 
of the dead Intwailiuka, but also with one or two men who 
have been regarded as his successive reincarnations, the last of 
whom was the father of the present Alatunja of the group. 
A number of smaller stones close by represent men who sat 
there with him, for during his life he spent much time in this 
spot, which he chose because, owing to its position, he could 
easily guard the approach to the gap and at the same time 
keep watch over the sacred store-house of the Churinga, which 
was always located in one of the many clefts which he made 
in the rocks for this purpose. 

In the western wall of the gap is situated the sacred cave 
which is called the Ilthura oknira, or the great Ilthura, at 
. which he performed the ceremony called Intichiuma, the 
object of which was then, as at the present day, to increase 
the number of the Udnirringita grub on which he and his 
companions fed. Directly opposite to this, but low down on 
the eastern wall of the gap, is the sacred Ilkinia, a drawing on 
the rocks which it is believed sprang up spontaneously to mark 
the spot where the Alcheringa women painted themselves, and 
stood peering up and watching while Intwailiuka and his men 



performed Inlichiuma. This spot is called the Erlukwirra, or 
camp of the women, in the Alcheringa, and one of the draw- 
ings is supposed to represent a woman leaning on her elbow 
against the rocks and gazing upwards. In this, as in many 
other instances, we meet with traditions showing clearly that in 
past times the position of women in regard to their associa- 
tion with sacred objects and ceremonies was very different 
from that which they occupy at the present day, when, 
for example, no woman dare to venture near to the sacred 

spot while Intichiuma was being performed there. About 
200 feet below the Ilthura, a steep, broad belt band of 
quartzite, less weathered than the surrounding rock, stands 
out and dips steeply down into the bed of the creek. This is 
called Alknaltnta, which means "eyes painted around," and 
indicates where, in the Alcheringa, Intwailiuka stood in the 
bed of the creek at the base of the rock. Standing here 
he threw numbers of Ckuringa Unc/iima, or eggs, up the 
face of the rock, just as is now done during the .Intichiuma 



cerenHmy, Here also he used to sit while he pounded up 
large quantities of the grub. On the northern edge of the 
rock is a long, deep, ridge-shaped depression, which looks as if 
the stone had been cut out with a great knife, and this marks 
the spot where the special pitchi of Intwailiuka rested while 
he poured into it the pulverised grubs. A high precipitous 
wall of rock rises abruptly from the top of the Alknalinta, and 
in a line with the mass of rock an old pine tree stands 

The block of slone in the foreground is the Nauja rock of InlHailiuka. the leader 
of ihe Wilchetly grubs. 

and marks the spot where Churinga Unchhna were stored by 
Intwailiuka for Intichiuina purposes, and where they are still 
stored by his successors. These special Churinga represent 
the eggs which the Alcheringa people carried in their bodies, 
and at the present day every man tielonging to the totem has 
a few of these which he believes were carried thus by his 
Alcheringa ancestors, and when he dies they are buried with 
him. Any round pebble found in the vicinity of the gap may 



be one of these Churinga, but only the old men- are able 
to tell whether it is genuine or not^ 

Looking south from the spot last referred to, a group of 
stones can be seen which mark the spot where a group of 
men coming into the gap in the Alcheringa sat down. At 
the west side of the northern entrance a great Jumble of 
quartzite boulders, much weather-worn, indicates the spot 
where the grub men, who marched into this, the headquarters 
of the totem, from a place called Ulathirka, sat down. Just 
outside the northern end of the gap a group of gum trees indi- 
cates where the people who marched in from Ungunjasat down, 
and further still up the creek, a large boulder, standing in the 
bed, indicates where a celebrated old man, the leader of one 
group of the Alcheringa, sat down. Up on the western bank, 
a group of gum trees and acacia scrub indicates where the 
men coming in from Urliipma sat. 

The Udnirringita people of this, their central group, did not 
wander about, and they are not recorded as having had 
any Jnapertwa ancestors, but the grubs are supposed to have 
been transformed directly into human beings. Whilst, how- 
ever, those who originated at the Emily Gap, according to 
tradition, remained there, other groups are recorded as having 
immigrated to the same spot from outside parts of the 

The first to come were the Udnirringita from a place called 
Urliipma, which lies twenty miles away to the east of the 
present tel^raph line, where it passes on to the Burt Plain at 
the northern side of the Macdonnell Ranges. They were led 
by an old Bukhara man, who was what is called Erilknabata, 
that is, a very wise man of the Alcheringa, his wisdom being 
commensurate with the length of his name, which was 
Irpapirkirpirirrawilika. They travelled at first under the 
ground until they reached Atnamala, a place a little to the 
east of Painta Springs, where they fed on Udnirringita, 
painted their bodies with the totemic design, and fixed many 
Laikira, or nose bones, in their hair. Thence they travelled 
above ground, and came on south to Okirilla, where they 
cooked and ate many Udnirringita, and also made Intichiuma. 
and left the Churinga Uckaqua stones, which now remain 



there, in the Iltkura which they used. Thence they travelled 
to Unthurqua, or the Emily Gap, where they sat down on the 
northern entrance, the old man Intwailiuka warning them to 
come no further. 

The next party to immigrate consisted of men from a place 
out to the west in the neighbourhood of Mount Heuglin. Un- 
like the Uriiipma people they had some women with them and 
were led by a Panunga man named Ilpiriiwuka, who, when he 
found that Intwailiuka would not allow him to come within 
the sacred precincts of the Emily Gap, became angry and, 
leaving his party, returned to Ulathirka, where his descendant 
is now living amongst the Udnirringita of that locality. This 
party travelled first of all to Atnamala, where, like the first 
group, they painted their bodies with the Ilkinia of the totem 
and made Intichiuma. Thence they travelled south-east to 
Yia-pitchera, about six miles west of Alice Springs, where 
again they painted themselves and fed upon the grub, a lai^e 
waterhole springing up to mark the spot where the grubs 
were cooked. Thence, after travelling only half a mile to 
Nang-wulturra, they again painted themselves, ate grubs, and 
another waterhole was formed. Travelling south they came 
to what is now called Charles Creek, where they performed 
sacred ceremonies and left a Panunga woman. Then, 
following down the creek, they came to IlpiUachilla, where they 
.stopped for a few hours and decorated themselves with the 
Ilkinia designs. Then they went on to Kiula, a clay-pan 
about three miles to the south of Alice Springs, where they 
again painted the Ilkinia on their bodies and left one man, a 
Bulthara named Ulaliki-irika, whose last descendant died a 
short time ago. Then they travelled on to the east along the 
plain which is bounded on the south by the range through 
which the Emily Gap runs, and at a spot about three miles 
further on, which is now indicated by a great heap of stones, 
they stopped to listen for the voice of Intwailiuka, and 
presently they heard him singing about the coming of a 
Panunga man. Leaving behind them a Panunga man named 
Ilpiriiwuka, whose descendant is now living in the person of a 
little boy, they travelled on to an Ilthura about tw6 miles 
away from the gap, where they met a number of the local 



Udnirringita people whom they joined, and then all of them 
went into the ground and came out again at the entrance to 
the gap on the western side. They were warned by 
Intwailiuka not to come any further on, so they sat down and 
their leader at once returned to Ulathurka. Where they sat 
down, a lai^e number of black stones arose to mark the spot. 
At a later time Intwailiuka led the party to the Ilthura 
Oknira, where they assisted him to perform Intuhiuma. 

After this party, there came another from Wulpa, a spot 
amongst the sand hills west of Mount Burrell on the Hugh 
River, This was led by an old Panunga man named Akwltha- 
intuya. The men of this party travelled undei^round to 
Yinthura passing, but at some miles distant, Imanda, where 
at that time the Achilpa and Unchichera were making 
Engwura. Here they made quabara undattha and ate 
Udnirringita They then travelled on, above ground, to 
Nukwia, east of Ooraminna, where they left a Panunga man ; 
thence they came to a lai^ clay-pan on the Emily Plain, 
made Engwura and then passed on to Intiripita, where they 
performed ceremonies and left two men, one a Panunga named 
Urangara, and the other a Bukhara named Irchuangwa. Then 
they passed on to I Ipirikulla, where a Panunga woman was lef^ 
and finally they reached the southern entrance to the Emily 
Gap where they were stopped by Intwailiuka and sat down, 
a group of stones now marking the spot. After their arrival 
they performed Ariltka upon some members of their party, 
the operator being a great medicine man named Urangara. 

Another party came from Unthurkunpa, a range about fift>' 
miles away to the east of Alice Springs, where there still 
exists a witchetty totem centre. They were led by a 
Bulthara named Intwailiuka, whose living descendant is the 
present Alatunja of the Alice Springs, or, to speak more 
correctly, of the Emily Gap group of Udnirringita, The 
members of this party at first travelled underground to 
Entukalira, a creek some miles to the east of Undoolya, 
where they ate witchetty grubs and painted themselves with 
Ilkinia. Thence they went on to Iliarinia, where they again 
painted and left a Bulthara man named Unchalka. Then 
they travelled on to the south and, after one or two halts, 



reached the entrance to the Jessie Gap, where they saw a 
number of witchetty men, amongst whom was a Bukhara 
named Kakathurika, who warned them not to approach any 
nearer to the gap and whose descendant is now the Alatunja 
of that group of the totem.' 

Then they journeyed on to Lkliknika on the Emily Creek 
about four miles north of the gap, where they painted Jlkinia 
on their bodies and left one woman, a Panunga, whose 
descendant is one of the daughters of the present Alatunja of 
Emily Gap. Thence they travelled on to the Todd River, 
where some men and women were left, and then, following the 
banks down to a spot, atvout half a mile away from the gap, 
where a Panunga man named Pitcha-arinia was left, they 
rested for a short time and then went on till they came to the 
eastern side of the Emily Gap, where they sat down alltogether 
and a group of trees arose to mark the place. 

The last party of immigrants came from Ungwia in the 
Hart Ranges. The members of this party were of both sexes, 
and they travelled underground until they reached Ilpirulcha, 
a spot on the Emily Creek a few miles to the north of 
the gap, where they painted themselves with Ilkinia and ate 
witchetty grubs Then they went on to Achilpa-inteminja, the 
spot at which one of the travelling groups of the Achilpa tost 
a small Churinga. After painting themselves here and 
eating some more of the totemic grub, they came to Laliknika, 
and then on to one of the Ilthura, where they halted because 
they heard the voice of Intwailiuka singing. Here they left 
one Bukhara man, and going on stopped every now and then 
to listen for the singing. Camping on the Emily Creek half 
a mile to the north of the spot called Chalipita, they left here 
a Bulthara woman named Chantunga, and then going on 
they performed some sacred ceremonies, Leaving behind one 

' This waming on the part of Intwailiuka at the Emily Gap, and or Kakathurika 
at the Jessie Gap appears Xa indicate the eiclusive right over a particular area, of 
country which was claimed by, and accorded to, the inhabitants of that area. 
Even men of the same totem aie not allowed to enter without permission from the 
head man. The same feeling very clearly exists at the present day, as is shown 
by the fact that a strange black, coming up to a camp, never thinks of going 
straight up to it, but sits down at some little distance and then wails until he is 
invited to come forward ty the old men 



Bulthara man, whose descendant is now living, they came to 
I-yathika, and found there a Bulthara man of their own totem. 
Here they could plainly hear Intwailiuka singing of the coming 
of the men from Ungwia, so they at once went on to the 
mouth of the gap, a group of trees arising to mark the 
spot where they stood. Intwailiuka objected to their passing 
through the gap, so they entered the ground and came up 
again on the south side at Ertichirticha, where they found the 
Wuipa people had previously sat down. The only living 
descendant of this group is a man named Ertichirticharinia, 
who now Hves at Alice Springs. They wished to continue 
their journey to Wulpa, but Intwailiuka told them to remain, 
so they sat down and stayed at the gap, and a group of gum 
trees marks the spot where they sat down. 

At the present time there are just forty individuals who are 
regarded as the descendants of the original resident group of 
Emily Gap and of the immigrant parties. Of these forty, 
twenty-six are the descendants of the former and fourteen are 
the descendants of the latter, and out of the total number only 
five belong to the Purula and Kumara moiety of the tribe. 

The Wanderings of Three Women 

A woman of the Panunga class and Quirra (bandicoot) 
totem, left a place called Ilki-ira, lying to the north of Anna's 
Reservoir, and, carrying with her a Nurtunja and Churinga, 
travelled south to Intita-laturika, where she found another 
Panunga woman of the Unjiamba totem who also had a 
Nurtunja. She took this woman and her Nurtunja with her, 
and, still travelling south, came to a place called Alkniara, to 
the east of, and not far from Mount Heuglin. Here they 
camped and made quabara undaKka, and the Quirra woman 
performed the operation of Alna ariltka-kuma on her com- 
panion, a great gully arising at the spot, and, in the middle of 
this, a large stone to mark the e.f act place where, after the 
performance, the women went down into the ground, under- 
neath which they travelled southwards to Ariltha. Here 
they made quabara undattha and then went on to Arur- 
umbya, where they found erected the Nurtunja of a Bulthara 



man named Akwithaka, of the bandicoot totem. The bandicoot 
woman here painted her Unjiamba companion with Quirra 
undattka^ and so caused herto change her totem to Quirra, after 
which, the tradition says, she fed exclusively on bandicoot. The 
owner of the Nurtunja was absent searching for bandicoot, and 
they did not see him, but, being afraid lest he should follow 
their tracks, they entered the ground and went on to Urtiacha 
in the Waterhouse Range, where they again made quabara 
undattha, and then came on to a spot five miles to the east 
of Owen Springs, where by means of quabara undattha the 
woman who was originally Unjiamba and Panunga, changed 
herself into a Kumara and remained there altogether. Her 
name was lUapurinja, which means, the changed one. 

The remaining woman now went on alone to Urapitchera, 
near to what is now called Boggy Waterhole on the Finke, 
where she found a number of Achilpa people making Engwura ; 
she caused blood to flow from her sexual organs in great 
volume, directing it towards the people, who at once fled to a 
spot close by which is now marked by a number of stones 
which sprung up where they took refuge. The blood covered 
the Engwura ground and formed a fine clay-pan which 
remains to the present day. 

Finding at Urapitchera a Kumara woman of the bandicoot 
totem, she took her on as companion and started off under- 
ground towards the north-east. After making quabara at 
various places they were chased by an old Kumara man of 
the lizard totem, named Yukwirta, but he could not capture 
them,andso they went on until they camped at Inkila-quatcha, 
where they found the Ulpmerka of the plum-tree totem who 
subsequently travelled northwards under the guidance of 
Kukaitcha and were at that time engaged in making Churinga 
by means of opossum teeth, which they used to draw the designs 
with. With the Ulpmerka the two women went to Quiurnpa, 
which was close by, and there Kukaitcha decorated the Kumara 
woman with sacred down, and thus caused her to change her 
class from Kumara to Panunga, and thus she became Quitta, 
that is, younger sister of the other woman. 

■ Quirra utidattha is bird's down which has been used for decoration in connec- 
tion with a sacred ceiemuny of the Quiira or bandicoot totem and has thus become 
identified with the latter. 

F F 



It has been already described in the account of the 
Engwura how these two women accompanied the Ulpmerka 
as they travelJed northwards from Quiurnpa under the 
guidance of the great Kukaitcha, It was this party of 
Ulpmerka who were camped at Aurapuncha, when one of the 
wandering parties of Achilpa came and joined them, and 
finally changed into Ulpmerka men of the plum-tree totem. 

Wanderings of Three Wild Dog Men 

In the Alcheringa there dwelt at Chilpma, about one 
hundred miles east south-east of Alice Springs, three men of 
the Ukgnulia or wild dog totem ; one was an old Bukhara man 
named Kaltiwilyika, and two were young men, both Panunga, 
one named Kalterinya and the other Ulthulperinya. The 
old man had a string bag, called Iruka or Apunga, in which 
he kept two Churinga. The two young men stole this bag 
and ran away followed by the old man who carried a great 
stabbing spear called Wallira. The two younger ones travelled 
away towards the north-west, and came to Uchirka, where they 
found an old woman of the wild dog totem, with a newly-born 
child, both of whom they killed and ate, leaving some meat 
for the old man. Here they left a Churinga from which 
sprang subsequently a man called Uchirkarinia, whose descen- 
dant is now living. 

Leaving Uchirka they travelled quickly, being afraid of the 
old man, and during the day passed Therierita, where 
they saw a large mob of Achilpa. They went on and camped 
at Itnuringa, where they found some Ortincha men with whom 
they were afraid to interfere and camped at Ulkupiratakima, 
a rock-hole on the Emily Plain, about eighteen miles to the 
south-east of Alice Springs. Here they found an old woman 
of the wild dog totem, whom they killed and proceeded to eat, 
and while thus engaged, the old man came in sight. The\' 
just had time to conceal the bag with the Churinga in it. when 
he came and sat down a little distance from them without 
speaking. They gave him meat, but he only ate a very little 
of it, being sulky. That night they were afraid to sleep lest 
the old man should kill them, and before daylight they ran 



away and came on to Pilyiqua, where there are some small 
rtx:k -holes. Here they camped and found some small wild dog 
men, some of whom ihey killed and ate. The old man again 
overtook them and again they gave him meat, of which he 
would only eat a little, being still very sulky and on the 
look-out for an opportunity of killing them. Once more 
they ran away before daylight and, passing a hill called 
Irpalpa, about seven miles south of Alice Springs, they 
travelled on to Okniambantwa or Mount Gillen, where they 
camped on top of the range and found an old woman of the 
wild dc^ totem whom they killed and ate. The old man 
came up later on, but the two young men had hidden them- 
selves. He saw, however, a lot of wild dog men who had 
originated here (this lies in a wild dog locality at the present 
day), and thinking the two might be in their midst he attacked 
them with his great spear and killed several, after which 
they all combined together and killed him. 

The local men were very angry, and so the two young 
men being afraid to join them, went up into the sky taking 
the bag with them. They went away towards the north- 
west and did not alight until they reached Ulthirpa, which is 
nearlyseventy miles from Alice Springs. Here they camped and 
found a Bulthara man of the wild dog totem named Ulthir- 
pirinia, whose descendant is now living, and who lived only 
on wild di^ flesh (the animal not the man), of which he 
consumed large quantities. He had a Nurlunja and quabara 
undattha, which he showed to the two young men, who then 
went on foot to Erwanchalirika, where they found a Bulthara 
wild dc^ man whom they killed and ate. He had no Nurtunja 
or Churinga, After eating him their faces became suffused 
with blood, producing a most uncomfortable feeling, so that 
they relieved each other by sucking one another's cheeks. 

Travelling on they passed the spots now called Johnston's 
Well and Harding's Soakage, both on the Woodforde Creek, 
and at the latter found a big Nurhinja erected which belonged 
to an old Panunga wild dog named Kalterinia, who was of 
remarkable appearance, having a broad white streak down 
the centre of his face. They joined him and he showed them 
his quabara undattha. At Imbatna, seven miles further north, 

K K 2 



they found another wild dog man with a Nurtunja and 
ceremonies, and then they turned slightly towards the west 
and came to Eri-quatcha, where they opened up the bag 
and looked at the Churinga which fluttered about in the most 
extraordinary manner. They closed it up again, and travelling 
on crossed Hanson Creek at Urumbia, and reach Kurdaitcha 
away to the west of Central Mount Stuart, where, long after- 
wards, one of the Achilpa parties camped. Here they 
deposited the bag containing the Churinga, from which 
sprung a Kumara man whose name was Kurdaitcharinia. A 
large stone arose at the spot where the Churinga was deposited. 
Only one wild d<^ man can arise, at a time, at the spot which 
lies in the middle of an Achilpa locality. After they had 
deposited the Churinga one of the men mounted on to the 
back of the other and went into the ground, and it is only the 
far away western people who know where they came out 

Wanderings of Two Unjiamba or Hakea Women 

Two women of the Unjiamba totem, named respectively 
Abmoara and Kuperta, sprang up at Ungwuranunga, about 
thirty-five miles north of Alice Springs, where they had a 
Ntirtunja and Churinga, and dwelt alongside their Ertnatu- 
lunga. Leaving this place they entered the ground, and came 
out again at Arapera, where they saw a Purula wild cat 
woman named Arilthamariltha, who originated here and had 
a big Nurtunja, and whose descendant is now alive. The two 
women did not join her but camped close by, and ate 
Unjiamba, on which they always fed. Thence, travelling 
above ground, they went to Okillalatunga, where they erected 
their Nurtunja and walked about looking for Unjiamba, but 
did not see another Unjiamba woman, a Purula of that 
name, who was camped in the locality with a large 
Nurtunja, round which one of the Achilpa parties danced 
when they passed by. Taking their Nurtunja to pieces, they 
went on to Atnyra-ungwurna-munia, where they camped and 
ate Unjiamba. Thence they went to Unthipita, where they 
erected their Nurtunja again, played about, and looked for 



Unjiamba, Then they once more took their Nttrtunja to pieces 
and travelled on to the Ooraminna rock-hole, where they went 
into the earth, and two large stones arose to mark the spot 
beneath which were their Churinga. The descendant of 
Abmoara is now living, and one of the two stones is her 
Nanja. The descendant of Kuperta died recently, and it will 
be some time before she will again undergo reincarnation. 

In the following accounts, which refer to the wanderings of 
Eriia, or emu, Yarumpa, or honey-ant, and Echunpa, or 
lizard men, we omit the greater part of the details, as these 
are closely similar to those already given in the case of other 
totemic groups. 

Wanderings of the Emu Men 

These people originated at a place called Erliunpa, about 
ten miles to the east of Giles Creek, which is situated eighty 
or a hundred miles east of Alice Springs. A party of men, 
accompanied by three women, left this place, travelling nearly 
due west. They carried Nuriunjas on their heads, and their 
bodies were at first covered with feathers, which they gradu- 
ally shed along their line of route until at last they had 
all disappeared. Their first camping place was at Oniara, 
where they went into the ground. They came out at Ulpira 
and travelled to Karpirakura, a little west of Soda Creek, 
where they found a group of emu people of both sexes. 
Here they left a number of men and travelled on in a 
general westerly direction, following the trend of the main 
Macdonnell Ranges and forming totem centres at various spots 
as they went along, the exact locality of which is known to 
the natives. About fifty miles to the west of Alice Springs 
they shed their few remaining feathers, and a short distance 
beyond what is now called Glen Helen, they entered the 
earth and did not come out until they reached Apaura in the 
Belt Range, at the western end of the Macdonnells, where 
they found and stayed with a local group of emu men and 
women, forming there an important emu totem centre. 



Wanderings of the Honey-Ant People 

The Yarumpa or honey -ant people, who were of all classes, 
originated at a place called Ilyaba, in the Mount Hay country. 
From this spot, which is the great centre of the totem, they 
dispersed in various directions. A great Oknirabata, named 
Abmyaungwirria, started out from Ilyaba to see what the 
country out northwards was like, and, returning after many 
days, told his people that he had found another mob of 
honey-ants far away in the north-east, and that he intended 
leading a party to them. After performing a lot of ceremonies 
which the women were allowed to see, he started off with the 
party, and after finding two or three honey-ant men living in 
the scrub in various places (it may be noted that the honey- 
ant is found in mulga scrub), they came to Inkalitcha, where 
the water-hole by which they camped was dry. They suftered 
much from thirst, and so opened veins in their arms and 
drank blood, some of the old men consuming immense quan- 
tities. Then they went into the ground, and alternately 
travelling above and under ground, came to a spot on 
the Burt Plain, where it is related that they made Ilpirla. 
This is a drink made by steeping the bodies of the honey- 
ants in water, and then kneading them until the honey 
is pressed out and mixed with the water. The Ilpirla was 
mixed in the hafts of their shields. After drinking some of 
it the Oknirabata left the party, and went on ahead to find 
the honey-ant people whom he had seen before. He found 
them at Koarpiria making an Engwura, and, returning at 
once to his party, he led them to that place. The local 
people were very angry, and refused to have anything to do with 
them, and moreover they opened veins in their arms, making 
such a flood that all the party were drowned except the 
Oknirabata who returned to Ilyaba, where finally he died. A 
black hill covered with black stones arose where the wanderers 
perished, and their Churinga are now in the store-house of 
the local group. A spring of fresh water is said to mark the 
central spot of the Engwura ground, which lies far out in 
sand-hill country, and has the natives say, never been visited 
by white men. 



Another party of honey-ant people started out west under 
the guidance of two Oknirabata. At a place called Tan- 
ulpma a large Nurtunja was erected, and here one of the 
leaders remained behind with the Nurtunja, a large gum tree 
arising to mark the spot where this stood. At Umpira the 
party met a honey-ant woman, who, like all those seen along 
the course of their travels, had a Nurtunja and quabara 
undattha. When she died a lai^ stone arose to mark the 
spot, and this is the Nanja of her living descendant. At 
Umpira Ariltlta was performed upon some of the party. Then 
they travelled on to Lukaria, where they found a large 
number of honey-ant men and women who had many 
Nurtunjas. On seeing the strangers the women were very 
angry, and assumed a threatening attitude, stamping and 
beating the air with their palms extended outwards, shouting 
" Yalikapira arinilla litchila Churinga oknirra ninunja " (Stop ; 
don't advance ; we have many Churinga). The party, fright- 
ened, camped a little distance away, where they erected a 
Nurtunja and performed Ariltha. The local honey-ants did 
not come near to them. They travelled on westwards, camp- 
ing near Mount Heuglin and on the Dashwood Creek, and 
forming various totem centres. At a place called Amula- 
pirta they stayed for a few hours performing Ariltha, and all 
the men had intercourse with a Fanunga honey-ant woman. 

On the north side of the Belt Range they camped by 
the side of a creek, and here they erected their Nurtunja, and 
were too tired to take it up again. While travelling on they 
heard a loud arri-tnknma — a special form of shouting — and 
soon found themselves face to face with a lai^e number of 
honey-ants at a place called Unapuna. The local people 
resented their coming, and at once drew forth floods of blood 
from their arms, with the result that all the strangers were 
drowned, their Churinga remaining behind and giving rise to 
an important Yarumpa or honey-ant totem centre. 

Wanderings ok the Lizard Men 

In the Alcheringa a man of the Illunja (jew lizard) totem, 
who sprung up at Simpson's Gap at a spot high up on the 



eastern wall, now marked by a column called by white men 
the Sentinel, journeyed away underground to a place called 
Ulira, east of Arltunja, where there were a number of Echunpa 
or big lizard people, who originated there, but, unlike the 
lizards of the Simpson's Gap locality, they always fed on lizards. 
The lUunja man had brought with him a lot of Owadowa, a 
grass seed which formed the food of the Simpson's Gap lizard 
people. Some of this he consumed on the road, and the rest 
he offered to the Ulira lizard people, who declined it, so he 
placed it on the ground, a large stone now marking the spot. 

Having induced the Echunpa people to accompany him, 
they all started back for Simpson's Gap, carrying a number of 
Churinga but no Nurtunja. On the way they ate Echunpa, 
the lUunja man joining them in doing so. Travelling west- 
ward, they camped at various places, and at one spot near to 
the Love Creek the younger men, whose duty it was to 
provide and cook the lizards for the older ones, only brought in 
a little to the old men, who were angry and called them 
Unkirertwa, that is, greedy men, and to punish them caused 
them to become anchinya, that is, grey-haired. 

At Irulchirtna they made quabara undattka, carrying 
Churinga on their heads, as shown during one of the Engwura 
ceremonies which represented one of those performed during 
this march. Here it was that some men of the Thippa-thippa 
{a bird totem) came and danced round them as they per- 
formed, and were afterwards changed into birds, which still 
hover over the Echunpa lizards and show the natives where 
they are to be found. Leaving Irulchirtna, they still carried 
their Churinga on their heads, and the Thippa-thippa ran 
round looking at them. At a place on the Todd River in the 
Emily Plain they stayed some time performing Tapuria, that 
is, a long series of lizard ceremonies, and then moving on a 
little further, the party was divided into two by the lllunja 
man. One lot went away south to somewhere in the region 
of Erldunda, and the other kept on a westerly course till 
lllaba, not far from the Heavitree Gap near Alice Springs, 
was reached. Here it is said that a Purula man who had a 
stumpy tail left the party, intending to go away, but changed 
his mind and returned. Then they went to what is now a 



large clay pan, called Conlon's lagoon, where Tapurta were 
again performed. Here a thin, emaciated man was left, and 
where he died arose a stone, the rubbing of which may cause 
emaciation in other people. This stone is charged with 
Arungguiltha, or evil influence. 

At Conlon's lagoon the Illunja man left the rest and went 
on ahead to Simpson's Gap, where he wanted to muster the 
Alexandra parakeet, small rat (Untaina), and Ilura (a lizard, 
a species of Nephrurus) people. The Alexandra parakeet 
people have, since that time, been changed into the bird which 
is supposed to inhabit caves underground, out of which it 
comes every now and then in search of grass seed. 

The lizard party came on and camped at Atnakutinga near 
Attack Gap, and then proceeded to the south of Temple Bar 
Gap, and from there followed up the Ross Creek where the 
Illunja man met them. A little further on they found a 
lizard man whose descendant now lives at Alice Springs. At 
lengththeyreachedSimpson'sGap and then they danced infront 
of the people who were assembled, and after that a long series 
of sacred ceremonies was performed. Then the Illunja man 
and one of the Echunpa returned underground to Ulirra 
where they stayed altogether. 

The lizard people left some of their party at the Gap ; 
three of them being very thin and emaciated died, and the 
stones which arose to mark the spot are charged with 
Arungguiliha. The rest of the party travelled north, still 
eating lizards, until they reached Painta Springs on the 
northern side of the Macdonne!! Range and the southern edge 
of the Burt Plains. Travelling northward they passed 
Hanns' Range, and at a place called Ilangara they were too 
tired to go further and so joined the Iwutta (nail-tailed 
wallaby) people who lived there. Their Churinga were 
deposited in two spots close to the storehouse of the Iwutta. 

The Unthippa Women 

In dealing with the wanderings of the fourth group of the 
Achilpa people reference was made to some dancing women 
called Unthippa who were met at a place called Yapilpa. 



The women were Orundta, that is what is usually translated 
"devi!" women, which implies that they were of an evil nature, 
always ready to annoy human beings, and endowed with 
special superhuman powers of various kinds. As explained, 
however, in the case of the Oruncha men the word " devil " 
must not be taken in the sense of their being at all the 
equivalents of malicious creatures whose one object was to 
work ill to men and women ; they are more mischievous than 
malicious, and in this instance the term " uncanny " mare 
nearly expresses the idea associated with them. 

These women were supposed to have sprung into existence 
far out in the Aldorla ilunga, that is the west country, and as 
they journeyed they danced all the way along carrying shields 
and spear-throwers until they passed right through the 
country of the Arunta people. When they started they were 
half women and half men, but before they had proceeded very 
far on their journey their oi^ans became modified and they 
were as other women. 

When they arrived at a place in the vicinity of Glen Helen 
they found a number of Okranina or carpet snake people who 
were assembled at an Apulia where they were about to 
perform the rite of circumcision upon some Wurtjas, that is 
boys who had undergone the preparatory painting and 
throwing up which form the first of the initiatory rites. Such 
women as were Unawa to the boys took the latter on their 
shoulders and carried them along with them, leaving them at 
various spots en route, after performing lartna on them. 
Women were also left occasionally. 

Somewhere out west of the River Jay the women changed 
their language to Arunta and began feeding on mulgaseed.on 
which they afterwards subsisted. Upon arrival at a place 
called Wankima, about a hundred miles further to the, 
their sexual organs dropped out from sheer exhaustion, caused 
by their uninterrupted dancing, and it was these which gave 
rise to well-known deposits of red ochre. The women then 
entered the ground and nothing more is known of them 
except that it is supposed that a great womanland exists far 
away to the east where they finally sat down. 

The long ridge of quartzite ranges which forms a marked 



feature in the surface configuration of the country, in the 
region of the Macdonnell Ranges, and extends east and west 
for more than 200 miles, forming the southern boundary of 
the long narrow Horn or Mereenie valley, arose to mark the 
line of travel which they followed. 

The Unthippa dance, which is performed during the 
ceremonies concerned at the present time with lartna, refers to 
these women. Upon the night when the boy is taken to the 
ceremonial ground the women approach, carrying shields and 
spear-throwers, and dance as the Unthippa women did in the 
Alcheringa, while the men sing, time after time, the refrain 
" the range all along," referring to the march of the Unthippa 
which the women are dancing in imitation of. At a later 
time also in the ceremony, after the boy has been painted and 
advanced to the grade of Wurtja, and just before the 
performance of the actual ceremony, one of the women (not, 
however, as in the case of the Unthippa an Unaiva woman, 
but one who is Mura to the boy), placing her head between 
his legs suddenly lifts him up on her shoulders and runs off 
with him, as in the Alcheringa the Unthippa women did, but, 
unlike what happened in the past, the boy is again seized by 
the men and brought back. Whatever these remarkable 
Unthippa women may have been, the myth concerning them, 
%vhich has evidently arisen to account for certain curious 
features in the initiation ceremonies, may be regarded as 
evidence that there was a time when women played a more 
important part in regard to such ceremonies than they do at 
the present time. 

Tradition of Erkincha 

In the Alcheringa one of the wandering parties of Achilpa 
or wild cat men were under the guidance of an old 
Oknirabata named Atnimma-la-truripa, who was renowned for 
the size of his penis (the native word is pura, being the same 
as that for tail, kangaroo tail, for example, is okirapurd). He 
was always goi^eously decorated with down, especially the 
pura. This party camped near to the watcrhole at 
Ooraminna, where they made an Engwura. W'hile there they 



discovered a group of wild cat men who were suiTering from 
the disease called Erkincha, or Yerakincha, and smelt most 
offensively. The southern Achilpa men had intended to 
settle here, but the presence of these men frightened them 
and they hurried away northwards. 

Shortly after the wild cat men had gone a party of men 
who belonged to the Arwarlinga (a species of Hakea) totem, 
who dwelt close by in the sand hills, came in and went to the 
top of the Ooraminna rockhole and made what is called 
abmoara — that is a favourite drink of the natives made by 
steeping Hakea flowers in water. The water was held in 
their wooden vessels, and then, opening veins in their arms, 
they allowed the blood to flow into the vessels and mix with 
the abmoara, until the vessels overflowed to such an extent 
that the Ooraminna Creek became flooded and all of the 
Erkmcha men were drowned. A stone arose at the spot 
where the diseased men perished, and since the days of the 
Alcheringa this stone has been known as Aperta atnumbira 
{aperta, stone ; atnumbira signifies a diseased growth issuing 
from the anus). Ever since this time the Erkincha has been 
prevalent amongst the natives, and it is believed that old men 
visiting the stone can, by means of rubbing it and muttering a 
request to the contained Arungquiltka, or evil influence, to go 
out, cause the disease to be communicated to any individual 
or even group of men whom they desire to injure.^ 

The Snake of Imvunga 

About fifty miles north-north-west of Alice Springs there is a 
gorge opening out from the northern ridge of the Macdonnell 
Range on to the Burt Plain. In the gorge is a waterfall with 
a small permanent pool at its base which is said to be 
inhabited by the spirit of a great dead snake and by some 
living snakes, the descendants of the former. The spot is 

' The disease is one which is common amongst young people, only attacking 
each individual once. It affects only the glands of (he part of the body in Ihe 
neighbourhood of the sore. At first sight it has much the appearance of being 
syphilitic in nature, but Dr. Eylmann, who has studied it, is of opinion that it is 
distinct from syphilis. It usually appears in the anal region, under the arms or 
l(^, oi close to ihe mouih. 



called Imyunga, and is in the centre of an Ingwitchika or 
grass seed locality. Here, in the Alcheringa, there lived a 
woman of the totem who was very expert in gathering the 
grass seed on which she fed, but she suffered great annoyance 
and was very angry because the people of the same totem 
who dwelt with her were always stealing her grass seed, so 
she journeyed far away to the south-west beyond Erldunda and 
brought back with her an enormous snake. She took the 
latter to her camp at Imyunga and there it ate up all the 
Ingwitchika thieves, after which it lived in the waterhole. It 
was long after the Alcheringa before it died, in fact it was seen 
by the grandfathers of some old men still living, and it was 
finally killed by a great flood which came down over the 
waterfall and washed it out of its hole. In the range there 
are great caverns which are occupied by the spirit of the 
snake. Some of its descendants are seen occasionally in the 
waterhole, to the eastern side of which no man dare go 
except at the risk of being sucked under the ranges — a fate 
which has, more than once, overtaken men who ventured too 
near, though it is a long time now since such a thing 
happened. When approaching the waterfall men always stop 
and sing out several times to give the snake warning of their 
approach, for it would make him angry if he were taken by 

Close by the waterfall is the storehouse of the local group 
in which all the Churinga are of stone. The Churtnga nanja 
of the woman referred to is ornamented on one side only with 
a number of series of concentric circles which are supposed to 
represent her breasts, her name being Urlatcha (breasts). 

The Fire Totem 

In the Alcheringa a spark of fire {uHnchitha) ascended into 
the sky at Urapuncha, the place of fire, which lies far away in 
the north and was blown by the north wind to a spot now 
indicated by a lai^e mountain also called Urapuncha, or Mount 
Hay. Here it fell to earth and a great fire sprang up which 
by and by subsided, and from the ashes came out some 
Inapertwa creatures — the ancestors of the people of the fire 



totem. These Inapertwn were after a time discovered by two 
wild duck (Wungara) men who flew over from the west and 
both of whom were Bulthara, one being called Erkung-ir-quilika 
and the other Mura-wilyika. They came from Ilalil-kirika 
close to the junction of the Hugh and Jay Rivers, and made 
the Inapertwa into men and women, after which they flew 
back to their camp in the west. The remains of the great fire 
still smoulders on the top of the mountain where the sacred 
storehouse of the totem is located, and at night time, 
especially if the night be dark and rainy, the fire can be seen 
from a long distance. Close to the storehouse is a great 
block of stone which in the Alcheringa was the piece of wood 
used by the great leader of the fire people, who was called 
Yarung-unterin-yinga, for the purpose of being rubbed by the 
amera or spear-thrower when he made fire. The amera is 
represented in the storehouse by a Churinga. 

The Origin of Fire 

In the Alcheringa a man of the Arunga or euro totem, 
named Algurawartna, started from a place named llilkinja 
out in the east in pursuit of a gigantic euro which carried fire 
in its body. The man carried with him two big Churinga 
with which he tried to make fire, but could not. He followed 
the euro as it travelled westwards, trying all the time to kill it. 
The man and the euro always camped a little distance away 
from one another. One night Algurawartna awoke and saw 
a fire burning by the euro ; he at once went up to it and took 
some, with which he cooked some euro flesh which he carried 
with him and upon which he fed. The euro ran away, turning 
back along its old tracks to the east. Still trying to make 
fire, but without success, the man followed until they once 
more came to IHlkinja, where at length Algurawartna 
succeeded in killing the euro with his Churinga. He 
examined the body carefully to see how the animal made 
fire, or where it came from, and pulling out the penis, which 
was of great length, he cut it open and found that it contained 
very red fire, which he took out and used to cook his euro 
with. For a long time he lived on the body of the big euro. 



and when the fire which he had taken from its body went out 
he tried fire-making {urpmala) again and was successful, 
always singing the urpmala chant : — 

" Urpmalara kaili 
'Alkna munga 
Ilpau wiu wila." 

The Orunchertwa and the Oknirabata 

In the Alcheringa a number of men belonging to the 
Qnchipera (h'ttle bat) and the Erlkintera (lai^e white bat) 
totems set out from Imanda. They were Oruncliertwa, that is 
" devil " men, and upon arrival at a place called Etuta they 
went up into the sky, but not very high up. From this 
position they killed men who walked about on the earth 

An old Oknirabata lay down at Etuta and t^vo boys played 
about aiming at trees with spears. These two boys heard the 
Orunchertwa sing out and were killed by them. Then the old 
Oknirabata was angry and went to his sacred storehouse 
which was close at hand, and took out a large stone Churinga ; 
sitting down he held this in both hands, and pointing it 
towards the Orunchertwa he brought them down to earth, and 
then with the Churinga cut them in pieces. 

Association of Birds With Particular Totems 

Around each of the Htkura, or sacred holes of the 
witchetty grub totem, at which a part of the httichiuma 
ceremony is performed, there are certain stones standing on 
end which represent special birds called Chantunga. These 
birds are looked upon as the ilqnalthari, or the mates of 
the witchetty people, because in the Alcheringa certain 
witchetty maegwa, that is the fully-grown grub, changed 
into the birds. The latter abound at the time when the grub is 
plentiful and are very rarely seen at other times, and they are 
then supposed to sing joyously and to take an especial delight^ 
as they hop about amongst the Udnirringa bushes all day long, 
in watching the inaegxva laying its eggs. The witchetty men 



will not eat the bird, as they say that to do so would make 
them " atnitta iakuma irima " (which literally means stomach, 
bad, to see) if they were to do so, and they speak affectionately 
of it. 

In the Okira or kangaroo totem the men have as Uquathari, 
grass parrots called Atnalchulpira, who in the Alcheringa 
were the U-winna, that is the fathers' sisters, of the Okira men, 
to whom they brought water as the birds do at the present 
day, according to the native belief, to the kangaroos in the 
dry country, where they are always found hovering about 
these animals. Associated ako with the kangaroo people are the 
birds called Kartwungawunga, who are the descendants of 
certain kangaroo men of the Alcheringa who were always killing 
and eating kangaroos and euro, and changed into the little 
birds who are often seen playing about on the backs of 
these animals. 

The Arunga or euro people have as mates the rock pigeon 
or Inturita, who in the Alcheringa were the Uwinna of the 
euro men, whom they furnished with water just as the natives 
say that the bird now does for the animals in the dry ranges. 
The euro men have a second mate in the form of the 
Unchurunqua, a small beautifully coloured bird {EvtbUfna 
picta\ the painted finch, which in the Alcheringa was a 
euro man. In the Alcheringa these euro men are said 
to have been great eaters of euro, and their bodies were 
always drenched with blood which dripped from the bodies 
of the euros which they killed and carried with them, and 
that is why the painted finch is splashed with red. 

The Yarumpa or honey-ant people have as mates a little 
bird called Alatipa, which, like the Yarumpa itself {Camponotui 
infiatus), only frequents mulga scrub country. They also 
have as mates another bird called Alpirtaka, which is a small 
" magpie," which also frequents mulga scrub. Both birds were 
once honey-ant people. 

The emu people have as mate the little striated wren 
{Amytis striata), which they call Lirra-Urra ; and the 
Echunpa or big lizard people have a smaller lizard ( Varanus 
punctalus), which they call Itchaquara. 

The Quatcha or water people have the waterfowl as their 



mate ; and the Urliwatchera, a lai^e lizard ( Varaniis gouldtt) 
people, have a small scincoid lizard called Irpanta. 

All these mates of the people of various totems are held in 
affectionate regard by those to whom they are especially 
related, but except in the case of the mates of the witchetty 
grubs there does not seem to be any restriction with r^ard to 
their not being eaten. Certain totems, such as the wild cat, the 
Hakea flower and the crow, are apparently without any mates 
of this kind. 

In addition to these birds which are regarded as mates oi 
the members of various totems, there are others which are 
regarded as representing men of the Alcheringa of particular 
totems which became extinct Thus the little scarlet-fronted 
Ephithanura {E. tricolor) which the natives call Ninchi-lappa- 
lappa were men who in the Alcheringa continually painted 
themselves with red ochre, until finally they changed into the 
bird. Again, in connection with the wanderings of a group of 
lizard men, we meet with a tradition which says that as they 
wandered across the country in the region of Simpson's Gap 
in the Macdonnell Ranges they came across a group of people 
of the Atninpirichira or Princess Alexandra Parakeet totem. 
For some reason they all changed into the birds, and now they 
live far underground, only coming up at intervals near their 
old camping ground to look for grass seed on which they feed 
— an allusion probably to the fact that this particular bird has 
a strange habit of completely disappearing out of the district 
for years at a time and then suddenly appearing in large 

Associated with the lizard people is a small bird called 
Thippa-thippa. In the Alcheringa these were men of that 
totem who came and danced round the lizard people as they 
performed ceremonies, and for some reason were transformed 
into the birds, which have ever since continued to hover round 
the lizards, and by doing so often show the natives where the 
animal is to be found. In one of the ceremonies of the 
Engwura they were represented by two men who danced 
around a lizard man. 




Operation of loolh knocking out in the c»se of males after the perTonnance of Ihe 
QualcAa Jnlichiiima — Explanalion of Ihe ceiemon)' given by the natives — 

Operation in the case of femaie<; — Throwing the tooth towards the mauler's 
camp in the Alchetinga — Comiiarison of the ceiemony with [hot of other 
parts of Australia — Nose-boring ceremony — -Men painting the IcEasls of a 
girl with fat and red ochre after charming it — To be regarded ss a cciemooy 
of initiation — Customs concerned with menstruation — Ehinking biood whra 
starting on an avenging party — Blood -drinking at meetings of reconciliation — 
Blood-letting at sacred ceremonies— Painting the Kauatia with Uood — The 
Wood after the ceremony of WnVWa upon a woman in theKaitisb and northern 
tribes — Deposits of red ochre associated with women's blood — Giving blood 
to men and women to strengthen them — Charming fal and red ochre arxl 
rubbing it over sick people — Part of the reproductive organs of an opossum 
or kangaroo used to strengthen women — ^Distribution of human hair — Customs 
at chiMbinh, making the umbilical cord into a necklet — Food restrictions — 
Totemic — The wild cat must not be eaten — Food killed by certain individuals 
may not be eaten — The projecting of a man's smell into food— Men who 
have to he supplied with food by any individual man belong to his wife's side 
ofthetiilie — Restrictions during pregnancy^ Food restrictions for hoys and 
girls with penalties attached^Cannibalism in the traditions — Killing and 
eating a younger child in the Luritcha tribe. 

Knocking out of Teeth 
This is a rite to which individuals of both sexes must sooner 
or later submit, if they happen to belong to one or other of 
the various groups which inhabit what is called the Kartwia 
Q«alc/ia, or rain country, which lies in the n<xth-east of the 
area of the country occupied by the Arunta tribe. It is 
evident that the rite is one the significance of which, so far as 
this tritje is concerned, has undei^one veiy considerable 
change in course of time. As a general rule it is performed 
before marriage, but not always, and when not done at an 



early age, the natives give as a reason that the boy or girl was 
too frightened, an excuse which would not gain a minute's 
delay if the ceremony were one concerned with initiation, and 
that such should be made shows that the ceremony is not 
one to which any very great importance is now attached. 

The operation always takes place after the Water 
Intickiuma ceremony has been performed, and in the case of 
a fully-grown man, it is performed on the fntichiuma ground. 
It is impossible to find out why the ceremony has become so 
especially associated with the rain or water totem, though at 
the same time it must be remembered that it is performed, 
not infrequently, on men and women of other totems ; in fact 
any one, whatever his or her totem be, may undei^o the rite 
at pleasure, but in the case of just the one totem it is 
obligatory, or practically so, though at the same time the 
non-observance of the custom would not prevent any man 
from being admitted to the secrets of the tribe, but it would 
subject him to what is most dreaded by the native, and that 
is the constant ridicule of the other men and women, with 
whom he is in daily contact. The explanation, evidently 
devised by the natives to account for the special association 
of the custom with the rain totem, is that the object of the 
rite is to produce in the face a resemblance to what they call 
Alailinga, which is the name applied to certain clouds, dark 
with a light margin, which are of peculiar appearance and are 
said to portend the coming of rain. There evidently was, as 
will be seen later on, a time when the ceremony had a much 
deeper meaning than it has at the present day. 

If the operation be performed on a man he lies down on 
his back, resting his head on the lap of a sitting man who is 
his tribal Oknia (elder brother), or else a man who is UnkuUa 
to him (mother's brother's son). The latter pinions his arms 
and then another Okitia or UnkuUa fills his mouth with fur- 
string for the purpose, partly, they say, of absorbing the blood 
and partly of deadening the pain, and partly also to prevent 
the tooth from being swallowed. The same man then takes 
a piece of wood, usually the sharp hard end of a spear, in which 
there is a hole made, and, pressing it firmly against the tooth, 
strikes it sharply with a stone. When the tooth is out, he 

G C 2 



holds it up for an instant so that it can be seen by alt, and 
while uttering a peculiar, rolling, guttural sound throws it 
away as far as possible in the direction of the Mira Mia 
Alckeringa, which means the camp of the man's mother in 
the Alcheringa. The man who has been operated upon then 
gets up and picks up some boomerangs which he throws at a 
shield which has been fixed upright in the ground some little 
distance away, throwing them gently so as not to hurt the 
shield. There is no singing or demonstration of any kind, 
other than that described, but the mother of the man must 
provide an offering of mirna, that is seed food of some kind, 
or " yams," and send it to the tribal Okilia or UnkuUa who 
performed the operation, and he, in his turn, must provide an 
offering of food for the use of the man on whom he operated, 
which is a curious reversal of the usual rule, according to 
which it is necessary, in all other cases with which we are 
acquainted, for the man who has been operated upon to 
provide the operator with food.^ 

In the case of boys the operation is performed away from 
the Intichitima ground near to which they may not go, and 
at this ceremony women may be present, for with regard to the 
Intichitima ground the same restriction applies to them as 
to boys. The performance is carried out in the same way as 
described, and the same rules apply with r^ard to the offering 
of food. 

When a woman or girl is to be operated on, a little space 
is cleared near to the main camp where men and women all 
assemble, except only those who are Mura to the girl. A tribal 
Okilia sits down and the girl lies with her head in his lap, 
and the operation is conducted as in the case of the men and 
boys, being almost always performed by a tribal Okilia. The 
tooth when taken out is lifted up with the same guttural 
sound and thrown in the direction of the mother's Alcheringa 
camp. The girl now springs to her feet, and seizing a small 
pitchi which has been placed close at hand for the purpose, 

' Any food is given except the totemLc animal or plant of Ihe reci|Nent. TTus 
may possiUy be a rudimenlaiy (ona of the moic elaborate ceremony of food-giving 
to novices detcribed by Mi. Mowitt in connection with the Jeraell of the Kurnai 
tribe. Jount. AiUi. Intt, May 1885, p. 317. 



fills it with sand, and dancing over the cleared space agitates 
the pitchi as if she were winnowing seed. When it is emptied 
she resumes her seat amongst the women. Previous to the 
operation the Okilia places in her hair a topknot of feathers of 
a cockatoo, which is returned to him later on. The girt, not 
her mother, must now provide an offering of seed food for the 
use of the operating Okilia, and he in his turn must send her 
an offering of meat 

Amongst the Kaitish tribe the operation on men is per- 
formed by tribal Okilia, and on women and girls by tribal 
f^s^a^a/firAfii (elder sisters), and in both cases, just as in the 
Arunta and Ilpirra tribes, the tooth is, when extracted, thrown 
in the direction of the mother's Alcheringa camp. 

The existence as well as the details accompanying the 
performance of this custom in these central tribes is of con- 
siderable interest. As is well known, it forms amongst many 
of the eastern and south-eastern tribes of Australia the most 
important initiation ceremony, after passing through which the 
young men are admitted to the status of manhood. Amongst 
the central tribes it has no such significance, and it is not even 
of universal occurrence amongst them. At the same time, the 
ceremony which accompanies the operation may in all 
probability be regarded as indicative of a time when it was 
a more important rite than it is at the present day. Circum- 
cision and sub-incision are amongst these tribes the initiation 
rites, and they are as characteristic in this respect of the 
central tribes as the knocking out of teeth is of certain tribes 
of the east and south-east of the continent. 

If, however, we examine more in detail the accounts of the 
ceremony as conducted in the Arunta and certain of the 
latter tribes, ive find unmistakable points of agreement which 
are difficult to account for on any supposition except that the 
two ha\'e had a common origin in times past. 

Blandowski ' in writing of certain Victorian natives. Says, 
that on arriving at manhood, a youth was conducted by three 
leaders of the tribe into the recesses of the woods, where he 
remained two days and one night. Being furnished with a 
suitable piece of wo<xl, he knocked out two of the front teeth 
' Tratis. Phil. &K. Victoria, vol. i., p. 71. 



of his upper jaw, and on returning to the camp gave them to 
his mother. Then he again returned to the woods for the 
same length of time. During his absence, his mother selected 
a young gum tree and inserted in the bark of the fork of two 
of the topmost branches the teeth which had been knocked 
out. This was ever afterwards in some sense held sacred. It 
was only known to certain persons of the tribe, and the youth 
himself was never allowed to know where his teeth had been 
placed. If the youth died, then the base of the tree was 
stripped of its bark, and it was killed by fire, so that it might 
remain as a monument of the dead man. It may be remarked, 
that it would be more likely to remain as a monument if it 
were not killed, and that probably this was not the real 
reason for destroying it. 

Collins,^ in an excellent account of the rite as practised 
amongst the natives of a New South Wales tribe, describes 
how a throwing stick was made, and with this the tooth was 
knocked out by means of hitting it with a stone. The last per- 
formance before the actual operation consisted in a man stand- 
ing out with a shield in one hand and a club in the other, 
" striking the shield with the club, at every third stroke the 
whole party poised and presented their spears at him, pointing 
them inwards and touching the centre of the shield. This 
concluded the ceremonies previous to the operation ; and it 
appeared significant of an exercise which was to form the 
principalbusiness of their lives, the use of the spear." Further 
on he says, " The natives when speaking of the loss of the 
tooth always use the word yor-lahng era-ba-diahng," which 
" appears to be compounded of the name given to the spot 
where the principal scene takes place, and of the most material 
qualification that is derived from the whole ceremony, that is, 
the throwing of the spear." 

Though Collins does not state anything very definite with 
regard to whom the teeth were given, we can gather 
indirectly, but at the same time quite clearly, that they came 
into the possession of certain women. He says, " Ben-nil-Iong's 
sister and Da-ring-ha, Cole-be's wife, hearing the author 
express a great desire to become possessed of some of these 

' An Aitoiinl of lit Eiigliih Colony ef N.S.W., 1804, pp. 367-373. 



teeth, procured them for him ; " and again, " one of the boys 
who had undergone the operation had formerly lived with the 
principal suigeon of- the settlement till that gentleman's 
•departure for England. A female relative of this boy brought 
the teeth to the author with a request that he would send 
them to Mr. White ; thus with gratitude remembering after 
the lapse of some years the attention which that gentleman 
had shown to her relative." 

In these accounts we see, certainly modified in detail but 
yet agreeing in essential points, the two significant features of 
spear-throwing and of the presenting of the teeth to some 
female relative of the person operated upon. The idea which 
■evidently lies at the root of the ceremony in both the Arunta 
and Kaitish tribes on the one hand, and the Victorian and 
New South Wales tribes on the other hand, is that the 
individual operated upon has ceased to be a mere boy or girl 
as the case may be, and has passed from the control of the 
mother into the ranks of the men or women, and the tooth is 
probably given to the mother or female relative as an indica> 
tion of this. In those tribes in which the ceremony is one of 
initiation it is not of course practised, at the present day, 
upon women, but when it ceases to be an important ceremony 
of initiation, then the same idea is, as it were, carried over to 
the women along with the ceremony itself. 

In the Central Australian tribes for example, the rite has 
ceased to hold the importance which it still retains, or rather 
did until the advent of the white man and their consequent 
■extinction, amongst the tribes of the eastern coastal district. 
In the former it has given place to a new and presumably 
more recently developed form of initiation ceremony — that of 
circumcision followed by sub-incision. Whilst this change 
has been brought about, the original rite has persisted in the 
form of what we have before spoken of as a rudimentary 
■custom, and, losing its original significance, as applied to men 
only, has been extended, so that now it is common to both 
sexes. In its earlier form, the tooth when extracted is given 
to the mother, or at least (judging from CoUins's account) to 
some female relative. In its rudimentary state, as in the 
Arunta tribe, we find that the tooth is thrown in the direction 



of the camp of the Alcheringa mother, which may perhaps be 
explained as indicating that in the Alcheringa, or rather the 
early times to H-hich this name is given, the mother was 
entitled to the tooth. The natives can, as might have been 
expected, give no reason for the custom, and the performance 
of this is certainly not now associated with the idea of showing 
to any living woman that the boy has passed out of her control, 
this idea being, as we have already seen, expressed in one of 
the ceremonies connected %vith initiation, as now practised. 

Of equal interest with the disposal of the tooth is the 
curious custom in the Arunta of the erection of a shield 
at which the man who has been operated upon throws 
boomerangs, but without hurting it. This is clearly the 
equivalent of the gentle striking of the shield by the spears in 
the New South Wales tribe, as described by Collins. In the 
one case the men assembled touch the shield with their spears, 
in the other the man who has been operated upon throws 
boomerangs at it, but in both we have the fundamental idea 
represented that the individual passing through the ceremony 
has arrived at the age of manhood when he may use the 
weapons by \\hich the men both defend themselves and secure 
their prej-. 

In the Arunta and Kaitish tribe we find, when the rite is 
' extended to include women as well as men, that the same 
two fundamental ideas are expressed. The tooth is thrown 
in the direction of the mother's Alcheringa camp, a feature 
carried over from the man's to the woman's ceremony, and 
secondl>-, we have the curious ceremony of the emptying of 
th.e pitchi which the girl carries on her head, and which maj- 
be regarded as indicative of the fact that she has reached the 
age when she can enter upon the duties of a woman, not the 
least important of which is symbolised by the pitcki filled 
with food, gathered in the bush, which she carries daily poised 
on the top of her head. 

It can scarcely be doubted that there is a common origin 
for these customs in the central and coastal tribes — the details 
of agreement just referred to are, it seems to us, inexplicable 
except on this hypothesis. This would seem to imply, 
inasmuch as in one group of tribes we find tooth extraction 



the important ceremotij'.with no trace of the form of ceremonies 
(circumcision, &c.) practised in the other group, whilst in the 
latter, side by side with the present initiation rite, we find 
tooth extraction in the form of a rudimentary custom, that 
the more ancient ceremony is that of tooth extraction. 

We have spoken hitherto as if it might be almost taken for 
granted that the latter rite was in all cases originally 
restricted to men, and that when, as in the central tribes, we 
find it practised by both sexes, it is to be regarded as a 
custom which, losing its sacred significance, was, as it were, 
passed on to the women, who then shared in it equally with 
the men. We do not in reality, by any means, desire to imply 
that this was of necessity the case. Into the question of 
what was the origin of the custom it seems hopeless to 
inquire. Whether it always had a sacred significance as it 
has at the present day, or whether it is a custom to which in 
course of time the present sacred nature as an initiation 
ceremony became, as it were, tacked on to its previous 
attributes, is a problem which will probably never be settled. 
What we wish to draw attention to now is the fact that in the 
traditions of the Arunta tribe we ha\e, so far as they are 
worth anything as evidence in this direction, the clearest 
possible indication of a past time when the things now 
regarded as so sacred that if seen by a woman she would be* 
put to death, were not thus tabu to women. In tradition 
after tradition we have accounts set out in great detail of how 
particular women of the Alcheringa carried the sacred 
Nurtunja just as the men did, and of how they had Churinga 
just as the men had, and further, of how they performed sacred 
ceremonies exactly as the men did. It can scarcely be held that 
these traditions are merely fanciful creations of the men ; if 
so it is a curious feature that they have been built up amongst 
a people to whose ideas of the fitness of things as they are 
now and probably have been for some time past, any such 
acquaintance of the women with the sacred objects is utterly 
foreign. It seems more probable that the traditions do 
really indicate the former existence of a time when, in this 
respect, men and women were upon terms of greater equality 
than thej- are now. This being so it ^vil! be seen that it is at 



events unsafe to take for granted that even as a rite of 
initiation the knocking out of teeth has always been confined 
to men. There are, it appears to us, two theories, in favour of 
-either of which many arguments might be adduced. 
According to the first of these the knocking out of teeth 
may be regarded from the very first as a sacred rite of 
initiation confined to the men; in those tribes in which it 
has remained as the rite of initiation it has always been 
so confined to the men, while in others it has been super- 
seded by more elaborate rites and has been passed on to 
the women when once its sacred character was lost. A 
second theory would regard the custom of knocking out of 
teeth as, at first, unconnected with any rite of initiation, and as 
practised by both men and women. Starting from this basis 
the customs, as we find them now developed, may be supposed 
to have followed one or other of two lines. Along the first, 
for some unknown reason, the rite came to be associated with 
initiation to, in the early days, both manhood and woman- ^ 
hood. After a time (and as pointed out it seems certain that 
changes in this direction have taken place) the rite came to 
be confined to men, and dropped out so far as women were 
concerned until, as in the eastern and south-eastern parts, it 
■came to be a sacred ceremony confined to the men. Along 
the second line ■ the rite came also to be associated with 
initiation both to manhood and womanhood, but its place, for 
some also unknown reason, came to be taken by a quite 
different ceremony in the case both of men and of women ; for 
it must be remembered that in the tribes of the Centre the 
women have initiation rites just as the men have, only that 
the same sacredness is not attached to them as to those 
of the men. With the introduction of the nqw rites the 
old one of knocking out of a tooth lost its original significance 
and persisted as a rudimentary custom, the relationship of 
it to the same custom, still practised as an initiation rite in 
other tribes, being unmistakably shown by a remarkable 
similarity in the details of the ceremony as performed 
in the different tribes. 



Ceremony of Nose Boring 

In the Arunta and Ilpirra tribes when a boy's nose has 
been bored, that is as soon as the operation has been 
completed, he strips a piece of bark off a gum tree, if 
possible, and throws it as far as he can in the direction 
of the Alcheringa camp of his mother, that is where the spirit 
individual of which his mother is the reincarnation lived 
in the Alcheringa. This little ceremony is called ityabara 
iwwna or the bark-throwing, and the boy is told to do it 
by men who stand to him in the relation of Aninga, 
Oinia, and OkiJia, who also tell him that the reason for 
doing it is that it will lessen the pain and promote the 
healing of the wound. When the nose of a girl is bored, 
which is usually by her husband very soon after she has 
passed into his possession, she fills a small wooden vessel 
with sand, and facing in the direction of the Alcheringa 
camp of her mother, executes a series of short jumps, keeping 
her feet close together and her legs stiff, while she makes 
the pitchi move as if she were winnowing seed until she 
gradually empties it, after which she simply resumes her 
ordinary occupation. Neglect to perform this ceremony 
would, so say the natives in explanation of it, be regarded 
as a grave offence against her mother. 

Promoting the Growth of the Breasts 

To promote the growth of the breasts of a girl, the men 
assemble at the Ungunja or men's camp, where they all join in 
singing long chants, the words of which express an exhortation 
to the breasts to grow, and others which have the effect of 
charming some fat and red ochre which men who are Gammona, 
that is, brothers of her mother, have brought to the spot, as well 
as head and arm bands of fur-string. These men belong to 
the other moiety of the tribe to that to which the girl belongs ; 
if she, for example, be a Panunga, then they will be Kumara. 
At daylight one of them goes out and calls her to a 
spot close to the Ungunja, to which she comes accompanied 



by her mother. Here her body is rubbed all over with 
fat by the Gammotta men, who then paint a series of 
straight lines of red ochre down her back and also down 
the centre of her chest and stomach, A wide circle is 
painted round each nipple and straight lines below each 
of these circles. Long strings of opossum fur-string are 
passed across each shoulder and under each arm-pit ; numbers 
of neck-rings are put round her neck, several head-rings are 
placed on her forehead, and a number of tail tips are fixed so 
that they droop down over the forehead and ears. All these 
things have been charmed by the Gammona singing over 

When this has been done the girl is taken out into the 
bush by her mother, who makes a camp there at some 
distance from the main one, and here the girl must sta>' until 
the iikinia or lines on her body wear off, when, but not until 
when, she may return to the main camp. The girl wears the 
charmed necklets and head-rings until one by one they drop 
off and become worn out. As we have pointed out previously, 
this is to be regarded as a form of initiation ceremony con- 
cerned with women,' and may be looked upon as the 
equivalent of the first ceremony of throwing up and painting 
the boy. 

Various Customs conxerned with Blood, Blood- 
letting, AND BlOOK-GiVIKC, &C. 

In the Arunta and llpirra tribes a girl at the first time of 
menstruation is taken by her mother to a spot close to, but 
apart from, the Erlukwirra or ivomen's camp, near to which 
no man ever goes. A fire is made and a camp formed by the 
mother, the girl being told to dig a hole about a foot or 
eighteen inches deep, over which she sits attended by her own 
and some other tribal Mia, who provide her with food, one or 
other of them being always with her, and sleeping by her side 

> In the tiibe« dealt with by Roth there does not Bjipear to be the equivalent 
of this ceremony, what he describes as the first initiation ceremony of womea 
being that of introcision, the equivalent of the Ariltha tuma ceremony amongit 
the central tribes, it/, ri/., p. 174. 



at night time. No children of either sex are allowed to go 
near to her or to speak to her. During the first two days 
she is supposed to sit over the hole without stirring away ; 
after that she may be taken out by one or other of the old 
women hunting for food. When the flow ceases she is told 
to fill in the hole. She now becomes what is called IVunpa, 
returns to the women's camp, and shortly afterwards undergoes 
the rite of Atna-ariii/ia, and is handed over to the man to 
whom she has been allotted. She remains Wunpa until such 
time as her breasts assume the pendent form so characteristic 
of the native women who have borne one or more children, 
after which she is spoken of as Arakutja, the name for a fully- 
grown woman. 

Blood may be given by young men to old men of any 
degree of relationship and at any time with a view to 
strengthening the latter. When it is given to a man of the 
same moiety of the tribe as the donor it is drawn from a vein in 
the middle of the arm, and when to a man of the other moiety, 
it must be taken from a vein at the inner side of the arm. 
Occasionally it is drawn from the back of the hand, and 
still more rarely by the painful process of deeply puncturing 
the finger tips under the nail. 

When starting on an avenging expedition or Atninga 
every man of the party drinks some blood, and also has some 
spurted over his body, so as to make him what is called 
uckuilima, that is, lithe and active. The elder men indicate 
from whom the blood is to be drawn, and the men so selected 
must not decline, though the amount drawn from a single 
individual is often very great ; indeed, we have known of 
a case in which blood was taken from a young and strong 
man until he dropped down from sheer exhaustion. 

In addition to the idea of strengthening the recipient, there 
is the further important belief that this partaking together of 
blood prevents the possibility of treachery. If, for example, 
an Alice Springs party wanted to go on an avenging expedi- 
tion to the Burt country, and they had with them in camp a 
man of that locality, he would be forced to drink blood with 
them, and, having partaken of it, would be bound not to aid 
his friends by giving them warning of their danger. If he 



refused to drink the blood, then, as actually happened in one 
case known to the authors, his mouth would be forced open 
and blood poured into it, which would have just the same 
binding influence as if the drinking had been a voluntar>- 

Blood-drinking is also associated with special meetings 
of reconciliation which sometimes take place between two 
groups who have been on bad terms with one another with- 
out actually coming to a fight. In this instance the group 
which is supposed to have sufiered the injury sends a 
messenger to the old men of the offending group, who says, 
" Our people want you to come and have a friendly fight." 
This peculiar form of meeting is called Umbima ilirima, 
which means " seeing and settling (things)." If the offending 
group be willing, which they are almost sure to be, then the 
meeting is held, and at the commencement each party drinks 
the blood of its own members, and a more or less sham 
fight takes place with boomerangs, no one being any the 

When a young man for the first time takes blood from 
another man, the latter becomes for a time tabu to him until 
he chooses to release the young man from the intherta, or ban 
of silence, by singing over his mouth. 

Apart from these special occasions, blood is not in- 
frequently used to assuage thirst and hunger ; indeed, when 
under ordinary circumstances a blackfellow is badly in want 
of water, what he does is to open a vein in his arm and drink 
the blood. 

Blood-letting is a prominent feature of certain sacred 
ceremonies, such as the Intichiuma rite, as practised by the 
kangaroo men at Undiara, the great centre of their totem, 
where the young men open veins in their arms and allow the 
blood to stream out on to, and over, the edge of the sacred 
ceremonial stone which represents the spot where a celebrated 
kangaroo of the Alcheringa went down into the earth, its 
spirit part remaining in the stone which arose to mark the 
place. In the same way at the Intichiuma of the Unjiamba 
or Hakea flower totem held at Ilyaba, blood from the arm is 
sprinkled over the stone which represents a mass of Unjiamba. 



The sacred pole called the Kauatta, which is erected at the 
close of the Engwura ceremony, is painted all over with 
blood, and, in all sacred ceremonies, in fact, in many of the 
ordinary corrobborees down derived from either birds or plants 
is attached to the human body by blood drawn either from the 
arm or the subincised urethra. 

Women are never allowed to witness the drawing of blood 
for decorative purposes ; indeed, the feeling with regard tO' 
women seeing men's blood is such that when a quarrel takes 
place and blood is shed in the presence of women, it is usual 
for the man whose blood is first shed to perform a ceremony 
connected with his own or his father or mother's totem. This 
is in some manner supposed to be by way of reconciliation, 
and to prevent the continuance of ill-feeling. The special 
term given to these ceremonies is Alua uparilima, which 
means "the blood fading away." After a fight which took 
place recently, one of these ceremonies was performed, 
by an Apungerta man of the witchetty grub totem. He perso- 
nated a Chankuna (small berry) woman, to which totem his- 
mother belonged, and was decorated with an elaborate head- 
dress representing the woman's digging-sticks, to which were 
affixed pendent bunches of feathers representing Chankuna 
bushes with the berries on them, which the woman was 

There are also various customs relating to the blood of 
women which may be referred to here. 

In the Kaitish and other northern tribes, when the rite of 
Atna ariltka kuma is performed on a young woman by an 
Ungaraitcha or elder sister, the blood is collected in a special 
pitcki which is made for the purpose by an elder brother of 
the woman, and is taken to the camp, where the Mia, Uwinna, 
and other women both smear their bodies with it and drink 
some It has been already described, in the account of the 
initiation ceremonies, that the blood which flows at the opera- 
tion of lartna on a boy is taken to the women's camp and 
rubbed over the breasts and foreheads of women who are the 
elder sisters of the boy and of his mother. 

The deposits of red ochre which are found in various parts 
are associated with women's blood. Near to Stuart's Hole, on 



the Finke River, there is a red ochre pit which has evidently 
been used for a long time ; and tradition says that in the 
Alcheringa two kangaroo women came from llpilla, and at 
this spot caused blood to flow from the vulva in large 
quantities, and so formed the deposit of red ochre. Travelling 
away westward they did the same thing in other places. In 
much the same way it is related of the dancing Untkippa 
women that, at a place called Wankima, in the eastern part 
of the Arunta district, they were so exhausted with dancing 
that their organs fell out, and gave rise to the large deposits 
of red ochre found there. 

Blood is occasionally given to both men and women to 
strengthen them when they are ill. When given to a man — 
and it is only given in very serious cases — it is drawn from the 
labia minora, and one of the women, taking first of all one 
of the several kinds of witchetty grubs which are eaten, dips 
this in the blood and gives it to the man to eat, after which 
his body is rubbed over with the blood and afterwards with 
grease and red ochre. When a woman is very ill and weak, 
one of her male Umba, to whom she is Mia alkuila, that is, he 
is the son of one of her younger sisters, may volunteer to 
strengthen her with his blood, in which case all the women 
and children are sent away from her. The man draws a 
quantity of blood from the subincised urethra, and she drinks 
part of it while he rubs the remainder over her body, adding 
afterwards a coating of red ochre and grease. If the woman 
recovers, she must not speak to the man, or to the men who 
accompany him, until such time as she has sent to him an 
offering of food. In all cases when a man or woman feels 
ill, the first thing that is done is to rub red ochre over 
the body, which may possibly be regarded in the light of 
a substitute for blood, just as sometimes a ceremonial object 
may be rubbed over with red ochre instead of blood. 

We may mention here also certain customs, which are 
concerned with the curing or strengthening of weak men and 

In some cases of serious illness women will charm by 
" singing" it a mixture of fat and red ochre, which they rub 
into the body of the sick man, all classes taking part in the 



Operation. If the man recovers he must not speak to any 
of the women, except his own Unawa, who took part in the 
ceremony, until after such time as he has made them an offer- 
ing of meat When this is done, the women assemble at some 
little distance from the Erlukwirra or women's camp, while 
the man, accompanied by his own and tribal Okilia (elder 
brothers) and Oknia (fathers), carries the meat, which is most 
likely kangaroo or euro flesh, and silently places it in front of 
the women, who then rub him over with red ochre, thus re- 
moving the ban of silence. The men and women then return 
to their respective camps, and the meat is cooked and eaten 
at the women's camp. 

In the northern and western Arunta and in the Ilpirra 
tribe, for the purpose of strengthening a delicate woman, a 
part of the internal reproductive oi^ans (called ertoachd) is 
taken from a male opossum, wallaby, euro, or kangaroo. The 
woman lies down on her back, and her husband placing the 
ertoacka upon the ntons vetteris, "sings" over it for some time 
after which the woman swallows it whole. 

In some cases the same part of the animal is taken by the 
man and half cooked, after which he coats it with grease, 
charms it by singing over it, and then presents it to his 
wife ; she has to swallow it whole without having any idea 
of the nature of the object, which, in this case, is given for 
the purpose of promoting sexual desire. For the same 
purpose fluid material from the ertoacka may be squeezed 
into the vulva, * 

Customs concerned with Hair 

A man's hair always goes to some one who is either 
Ikuntera or Umbima to him. Supposing a man has three 
sons, then each of them is made son-in-law to some special 
man whom he calls Ikuntera-tualcha. The latter has the first 
claim to the younger man's hair. Any which there may be 
to spare goes to the son of an Ikuntera, that is to a man who 
is Umbima of the donor. In this way a man receives hair 
from (i) his actual mother-in-law (his principal supply), (2) 
from a Gammona or son-in-law, (3) from an Umbima or 

H H 



brother-ill law, while (4) under certain circumstances, already 
described, he receives a special supply from a particular 
Umbima to whom he stands in the relationship of Ungipinna. 
In addition to these, which may be called his normal sources 
of supply, he will sometimes receive hair-string as a return for 
some favour rendered. For example, a man who belongs to 
a different totem from his father inherits the Churinga of the 
latter, but they still remain in the store-house of the father's 
local totemic group. A suitable present of such a valuable 
article as hair-string will often persuade the head man of the 
father's group to allow the son to remove, for a time, the 
Churinga of the former to the store-house in which his, i.e. the 
son's, Churinga is kept 

A man when cutting or having his hair cut, which he must 
do periodically, as it is his duty to present it to certain in- 
dividuals, always squats facing the direction of the Alcheringa 
camp of his mother. If he fails to do this some great calamity 
will befall him. 

At the close of the initiation ceremony of Ariltlia, in the 
case of the Northern Arunta, the elder sisters of the boy 
cut off a few locks of his hair, which they keep for themselves. 

The distribution of a dead man's hair has been already 
alluded to, as well as the fact that in these tribes the remark- 
able customs according to which a man's hair must be given 
to certain individuals have of necessity prevented the existence 
of the feeling, so strongly developed amongst many other 
Australian tribes, that on no account must a stranger be 
allowed to secure even the smallest fragment of hair. 

Custom at Child Birth 

When a child is born, the fact is notified to the father by 
his actual or a tribal Mia. 

Before thfe child is born, the woman goes to the Eriukwirra 
or women's camp. If there be any difficulty in childbirth 
the husband, who is at his own camp, without saying anything 
strips off all his persona! adornments, and empties his bag or 
wallet of knick-knacks on to the ground. Then a man who 
is Mura to him, without in any way referring to the matter. 



takes the hair-girdle, and proceeding to the Erlukwirra, near 
to which as a general rule no man may go, ties it tightly 
round the woman's body just under the breasts, and then 
returns to the husband's camp. Not a word is spoken, but 
if after a time the birth of the child is not announced, the 
husband, still quite unadorned, walks once or twice slowly, at 
a distance of about fifty yards, up and down past the Erluk- 
wirra with a view to inducing the unborn child to follow him, 
which it is said rarely to fail to do. 

After birth the umbilical cord is cut with a stone knife, or 
sometimes with the pointed end of a digging-stick at a dis- 
tance of some inches from the body of the child. There is no 
ligature, but the cut end is frequently dressed with hot ashes, 
"f he afterbirth is bunit After a few days the attached part 
of the cord is cut off by the mother, who by swathing it in 
fur-string makes it into a necklace called Akurlaitcka, which 
is placed round the child's neck. The necklace is supposed 
to facilitate the growth of the child, to keep it quiet and con- 
tented, to avert illness generally, and it also has the faculty of 
deadening to the child the noise of the barking of the camp 

The painting of a black line over the eyebrow in imita- 
tion of the mark on the Erathippa stone has already been 
alluded to. 

Food Restrictions 

In the Urabunnatribe,asin the great majority of Australian 
tribes with regard to which we have information relating to 
their totemic systems, each individual is strictly forbidden to 
eat the animal or plant, the name of which he bears, as that of 
his totem. That is, for example, an emu man or woman 
must not in any way injure an emu, nor must he partake of 
its flesh even when he has not killed it himself. 

The exact restrictions vary, however, to a certain extent in 
different tribes, in some apparently, such as the Urabunna, it 
applies at all times, in others, as described by Sir George 
Grey in the case of certain West Australian natives, the rule 
is observed at some but not at all times. Thus he says,' " a 

' Bxftditiim in North Wnt and Wtilem Ausiralitt, 1841, vol. it, p. 228. 
H H 2 



certain mysterious connection exists between 3 family and its 
kobong, so that a member of the family will never kill an 
animal of the species to which his kobong belongs ; should he 
find it asleep, indeed he kills it reluctantly, and never without 
affording it a chance of escape. This arises from the family 
belief that some one individual of the species is their nearest 
friend, to kill whom would be a great crime, and carefully to 
be' avoided. Similarly, a native who has a vegetable for his 
kobong, may not gather it under certain circumstances, and at 
particular times of the year." 

In the Arunta and other Central Australian tribes, restric- 
tions as to not eating the animal or plant because it bears the 
name of the individual's totem may be said to agree in actual 
practice with those just described with, however, this 
difference, that the Arunta native does not imagine that the 
animal or plant, or some particular one of the species, is his 
nearest friend. A man will eat only very sparingly of his 
totem, though there are certain special occasions on which, as 
a sacred ceremony, he partakes of his totemic animal or plant. 

To this reference has been made elsewhere,^ meanwhile it 
may be said here that, in broad outline, the Central Australian 
agree with the majority of Australian tribes in the general 
restriction according to which the totem is tabooed. That this 
has not, however, always been the case appears to be indicated 
by certain traditions in which we see very distinct references to 
the eating of the totem by the members, in fact the latter are re- 
presented as having a kind of prior claim to it for this purpose. 

The only case in which there is any general restriction 
applying to the eating of an animal is in regard to the 
Achilpa, or " wild cat," but in this instance there is something 
of a very special nature, as the restriction not only applies to 
members of the Achilpa totem but extends to every member 
of the tribe except the oldest men and women. 

Apart from restrictions concerned with the totems, there 
are others which relate on the one hand to food which has 
been killed by special individuals, and on the other to food 
which may not be eaten by particular individuals at certain 
times of their lives. 

' Chaplei VI. 



Under the first series of restrictions we find that a man 
may not eat the flesh of any animal which has been caught 
and killed, or even handled, by his Ikuntera (father-in-law), 
Umba (children of his sisters), female Mura and Ipmunna, 
nor by the man who is the father of his mother-in-law. On 
the contrary he must share his food with his Ikuntera or 
actual and tribal fathers-in-law, and it is his duty on killing 
game to ascertain if any of them are in want of food. As 
a matter of practice a man will never go out hunting with 
either his Ikuntera or Umba men, as they will appropriate 
everything which he kills while he is with them, so that 
he takes care to keep out of their way as much as possible. 
In the distribution of food he gives a portion first to his 
Ikuntera, then after feeding himself and his own Unawa 
and children, he gives any which he does not require to 
his Umba, and after that to his Mura and Ipmunna women. 
It may be added that this giving away of food according to 
well-established rules is not a custom more honoured in the 
breach than the observance, but is actually carried out. The 
Australian native cannot be accused of a lack of generosity ; 
what he has he distributes freely to those to whom tribal 
custom tells htm that he ought to, and, it may be added, that 
he obeys to the letter the injunction of taking no heed for the 

Not only must a man supply the individuals named with 
food, but he must also take care that, when he is eating, none 
of them is sufficiently near to distinguish what he is eating, 
lest they should spoil it by what is called Eqtiilla timma, 
which means " projecting their smell into it." Should a man 
eat meat which has been killed or seen by any of these 
persons, the food would disagree with him, and he would 
sicken and suffer severely, a belief which has the result of 
securing the observance of the custom. 

If we take the case of a particular man, say a Panunga,and 
refer to the table already given, it can be seen at a glance 
what are the classes to which the individuals concerned with 
this restriction belong. They are Kumara men and women. 
Bulthara women, Uknaria women, together with the Uknaria 
man who is the father of the man's actual mother-in-law. 



The association in this respect is clearly that between a man 
and, what we may call, his wife's side of the tribe, and it is 
somewhat instructive to note that in the Aninta and other 
Centra! Australian tribes, in which descent is counted in the 
male line, a man continues, as it were, to pay a kind of tribute 
to his wife's group during his lifetime, which may perhaps 
be regarded as an early form of what obtains in so many 
other tribes under the different custom of paying, as it were, a 
lump sum down at the time of marriage. 

This is, further, the one important feature, so far as the 
Arunta and other tribes akin to it are concerned, which 
appears to indicate in any way a former condition in which a 
man owed allegiance to the group of his wife ; in no 
Australian tribe, so far as we know, is it the custom for a 
man to take up his abode with the family of his wife and to 
work for them, but in this custom we see, clearly expressed, 
the idea that a man owes something to the group from which 
his wife comes. 

The second class of restriction is of an entirely different 
nature, and is associated with the idea, firstly, of reserving the 
best things for the older people, secondly, of reserving certain 
things for the men as opposed to the women, while, thirdly, 
there are restrictions which deal with the food of individuals 
at particular times. 

We may take the third series first. When a youth is 
circumcised, and until he has undergone and recovered entirely 
from the rite of ariltka or sub-incision, he is forbidden to eat 
of the flesh of a number of animals ; if he were to transgress 
this rule then his recovery would be retarded and his wounds 
would become much inflamed. The forbidden animals are — 
snakes, opossums, echidna, all kinds of lizards, mound birds 
or their eggs, bandicoots, wild turkey and their eggs, eagle- 
hawks and their eggs. The idea underlying this is evidently 
that of disciplining the novice, in just the same way as, 
during the Engwura, the younger men are not allowed to eat 
much food of any kind, but have to bring in the greater part 
of any game which they may secure and present it to the older 
men who remain in camp. 

There are certain restrictions as to food connected with the 



early stages of pregnancy. A woman may, if she likes to do 
so, eat meat, but the unborn child is supposed to resent this 

- by causing sickness, and therefore the woman at first only 
eats vegetable food. Further still, during the first three or 
four months, the husband does not kill any lar^e game 
necessitating the use of spear or boomerang, but only catches 
rats, opossums and other small game. It is supposed that the 
spirit of the unborn child follows him about and gives warning 
of his approach to large game. Should the man attempt to 
throw a spear or boomerang at any animal, then the spirit 
child will cause the weapon to take a crooked course, and the 
man will know that he has lost his skill in the chase and that 
the child is angry with him. If, however, despite this warning, 
the father persists in trying to kill large game, then the 
sickness and sufferings of the mother would be very largely 
increased. There is, however,- nothing to prevent the man 
from eating game which has been killed by other men. The 
natives can offer no explanation of this custom, and it may 
be pointed out that the restriction with regard to killing game 
does not appear to have the slightest reference to anything 
which has to do with the totems. 

The list of foods which an Ulpmerka, that is a boy who 
has not been circumcised, may not eat is of considerable 
length- We append it with the list of penalties following on 
transgression of the rules. The idea throughout is evidently 
that which dbtains so largely in savage tribes of reserving the 
l>est things for the use of the elders, and, more especially, of 
the elder men. The forbidden foods are as follows : — 

Kangaroo \&\\ {Okirra purra) ; penalty, premature age and 


Wild turkey and its e^s {Ertud) ; penalty, premature age. 
Female bandicoot [jQuirra) ; penalty, probably bleed to 

death at circumcision. 

Lai^e lizards (Jlchaquarra or Parenthie) ; penalty, become 

Arro-iwama, that is, one with an abnormal and diseased 

craving for sexual intercourse, an individual held in much 


Emu fat {Erlia inga) ; penalty, abnormal development of 

the penis. 



All kinds of parrots and cockatoos ; penalty, development 
of a hollow on the top of the head and of a hole in the chin. 

Large quail {Tulkara) and its e^s ; penalty, non-growth of 
beard and whiskers and general stoppage of growth. 

Eagle-hawk {Irritcha), except the legs ; penalty, premature 
a^e and leanness ; the leg is supposed to impart strength and 
generally to improve the growth of the limb. Boys are often 
struck on the calf of the leg with the leg bone of an eagle- 
hawk, as thereby strength passes from the bone into the 
boy's leg. 

Wild-cat {Achilpa) ; penalty, painful and foul-smelling 
eruption on head and neck. This restriction applies until 
very old age is reached. 

Podargus {Auraingd) and its eggs ; penalty, an ugly en- 
largement of the mouth. 

The following restrictions and penalties concern girls and 
young women until after they have had a child, or until their 
breasts begin to be pendent, in the characteristic way of the 
native women. They may not eat : — 

Female bandicoot (Quirra) ; penalty, continual flow of the 

Lai^e lizards ; penalty, become Arro-iwama, that is, one 
with an abnormal crav'"" *"'■ "v>iqI .'ntoH-nnrcA . oi.^k ■• 
woman would be always 
laws with regard to cli 
meet with severe punish 

Large quail and its ej 

Wild-cat {Achilpa) ; p 

Kangaroo tail {OkirrA 
ness, non-development o 

Emu fat ; penalty, mi 

Cockatoos and parrot 
of a hollow on the top o 

Echidna {Inarlinga) ; 
genital organs. 

Brown hawk {Hieracii 
penalty, absence of mil 



swell until they burst Young women are only allowed to 
eat the young nestlings. The customs connected with this 
particular bird are curious. Not only is it ekirinja or forbidden 
to the young women; but, if one of them be suckling a child and 
she sees one of these birds, she at once makes haste to turn 
so that her breast cannot be seen by the bird, because, if the 
bird should catch sight of it, or worse still, if its shadow were 
to fall on it, then the milk would fail and the breast would 
swell and burst. The women also believe that if they eat the 
old birds their sons will be. afflicted with varicose veins 
(tilurkna) on the forehead, causing much disfigurement. 

While the Arrakurta is out in the bush the actual Mia, 
that is, his mother, may not eat opossum, large carpet snake, 
lai^e lizard, and fat of any sort, or else she would retard 
her son's recovery. 

A curious restriction applying to women during the time of 
pregnancy, and also during the menstrual period, is that they 
may not, during the continuance of either of these, gather 
Irriakura, the bulb which forms, together with Munyeru 
{Portulaca sp,), a staple vegetable food ; the breaking of this 
rule would result in the failure of the supply of Irriakura. 
With this exception, there are no restrictions with regard to 
v^etable food, except in the case of individuals whose totem 
is one of them. 

There is very clear evidence that during a former stage 
cannibalism was a well-recognised custom. We have already 
described certain ceremonies performed at the Engwura 
which can only be regarded as pointing back to the existence 
of a different state of affairs from that which now obtains. For 
example, in the Quabarra Ingwuminga inkinja} two men had 
their bodies decorated with circles of white down which were 
supposed to represent the skulls of slain and eaten men. The 
performers themselves represented the UUhana or spirits of 
the dead men wandering about in search of those who had 
killed and eaten them. In another ceremony two Achilpa 
men were engaged in cooking the body of a third ; in another, 

^ Ingvruminga means bones ; iitiin'a, arisen. 





concerned with the white bat totem, one of the performers 
carried on his head an object representing a limp, dead body ; 
and in the traditions dealing with the wanderings of the wild 
dc^s, the men are continually referred to as killing and eating 
other wild dog men and women. 

These ceremonies may be regarded as probably indicative 
of what took place in past times amongst the ancestors of the 
present Arunta tribe, and of what still takes place amongst 
the Luritcha tribe where enemies are eaten. Care is always 
taken at the present day, amongst the latter, to destroy the 
bones, as the natives believe that unless this is done the 
victims will arise from the coming together of the bones, and 
will follow and harm those who have killed and eaten them. 
It is regarded as especially essential to destroy the skull — an 
existing belief which may be compared with the tradition 
referring to the early lizard man.whose head was not destroyed, 
and who therefore came to life again when his brother spoke 
to the head. 

In the Luritcha tribe also young children are sometimes 
killed and eaten, and it is not an infrequent custom, when a 
child is in weak health, to kill a younger and healthy one and 
then to feed the weakling on its flesh, the idea being that this 
will give to the weak child the strength of the stronger one. 

As usual, in regard to customs such as this, it is by no 
means easy to find out exactly what takes place, as the natives 
of one part of the country will assure you that they do not 
indulge in the habit, but that they know that those of other 
parts do. When the accused are questioned, they in turn 
lay the same charge against their accusers and so on, often 
from group to group. 




No iden of natural dealh — ^Death of one individual musi be avenged in the nonnal 
condition of the Iribe by the death of another — Organisation of a Kurdaitcha 
party — The ceremony of dislocating a toe before a man beconies eotitled tu 
wear the so-cailed Ivuidailcha shoes — The Kurdaitcha. man accompanied by 
a Medicine man^Decoration of the two men — Killing the victim and 
operations of the Medicine man— Another form in which the Kurdaitcha man 
goes alone — The shoes do not serve to hide the tracks, and can only prevent 
who made them from being known — The Illapurinja — A form of female 
Kurdaitcha— The decoration of the woman— How the enemy is killed— Object 
of the Illapurinja is to punish a woman who has not mourned properly on 
the death of a daughter, biood or tribal— The Atninga or avenging party- 
Account of the proceedings of a parly — Offering the use of women to the 
party — Agreement between the avenging party and the old men of the 
attacked party to kill three of the latter — A special fire is built at each camp — - 

Spearing the victims — The actual slayers must not touch the bodies — Seizure 
olawomBn — Immirinfa who actually slew the men and W/tHo/ori«iAi, "' 
lookers — Return to the home camp — Precautions to prevent the /wi 

being injured by the spirits of the dead men — The women strike the shields — 
The B^rit of the dead man assumes the form of a bird which must be watched 
for as it flies over the camp, otherwise it will produce pnral)'sis. 

Amongst the Central Australian natives there is no such 
thing as belief in natural death ; however old or decrepit a 
man or woman may be when this takes place it is at once 
supposed that it has been brought about by the magic in- 
fluence of some enemy, and in the normal condition of the 
tribe the death of one individual is followed by the murder of 
some one else who is supposed to be guilty of having caused 
the death. Not infrequently the dying man will whisper in 
the ear of a RaUtcltawa, or medicine man, the name of the 
man whose magic is killing him. If this be not done then there 
is no difficulty, by some other method, of fixing sooner or 
later on the guilty party. Perhaps when digging the grave a 
hole will be found leading out of it on one side, which at once 



shows the direction in which the culprit lives ; or this may be 
indicated, perhaps as long as a year after the death, by a 
burrow made by some animal on one side of the grave. 
The identity of the guilty man is always revealed by the 
medicine man. 

When it is known who the culprit is a Kurdaitcha party 
may be arranged to avenge the death. This custom is, so 
the natives say, much less frequently carried out at the pres- 
ent day than in former years, and in the southern parts of the 
tribe seems to have died out altogether,' When it is decided 
who is guilty, a council of the old men of the group to which 
the dead man belonged is held and, if it be decided that 
vengeance is to be exacted by means of a Kurdaitcha party, 
then the man who is to play this part is chosen. The name 
Kurdaitcha is applied to the latter' and he wears the shoes 
to which by white men the name of Kurdaitcha shoes has 
been given. In the north the native name for them is Inter- 
linia and in the south Intatkurta. 

These shoes have the form of a thick pad of emu feathers 
matted together with human blood drawn from the arm of 
some young man. They are so ingeniously made however that 
the use of anything like blood in their construction would 
never be suspected ; indeed it is difficult to detect, even with 
the shoes in one's hands, how the feathers are matted into 
such a compact mass without apparently the use of anything 
like stitching. On the upper surface is a network of human 
hair string made from the hair of any living man or woman — 
it does not in the least signify who the individual is — and in 
the middle of the net^vork is a hole through which the foot 
passes and across which stretches a cord made of several 

' An excellent account of the Kurdaitcha custom as it formerly existed in the 
southern part of the Arunta tribe has already been published by Mr. P. M. Byme, 
Prut. Roy. Sec., Victoria, vol. jii, (new series), p. 6$. Various accounts have 
from time to time been published with regard to the so-called Kurdaitcha. shoes 
associating them with "rain -making," etc., hut the most accurate and reliable 
account is that given by Mr. Byme, and quoted subsequently by Dr. Stirling in 
the AathrvpeUgicai Report of Ihc Horn Expedition. An interesting account con- 
Iflinii^ various ideas with regard to the shoes is given by Mr. R. Etberidge, jun., 
Proc. Linn. Sec. N.S.W., 1894, p. 544. 

* In the Urabuona tribe the same custom prevails, but the name KQthi is givcp 
(o the man. 



Strands of hair string twisted tc^ether. As we have said, it h 
is by no means an easy matter to make the shoes and, as 
usual, in the manufacture of any special article, there are 
certain individuals who are famed for their skill in making 
them. No woman or child may see them and they are kept 
wrapped up in skin or else placed for safety in the sacred 
store house along with the Churinga It is said that thej- 
may be used more than once, but the nature of the- shoe i.-. 
such that it could not last more than one journey over the 
hard ground characteristic of the interior. 

Before a man may wear the shoes he has to submit to a 
most painful ordeal. A stone is heated to redness and then 
applied to the ball of the small toe of either foot, it does not 
matter which, until, as the natives say, the joint is softened 
when with a sudden jerk, the toe is pulled outwards and the 
joint is thus dislocated. There is no doubt that some such 
ordeal as this is passed through, as we have examined feet of 
men who claim to be what is called Ertwa Kurdaitcha at 
Charlotte Waters, Crown Point on the Finke River, Owen 
Springs and Alice Springs amongst the Macdonnel! Ranges, 
all of which show the remarkable peculiarity of the disloca- 
tion. In correspondence with this is the fact that the true 
Kurdaitcha shoe has, at one side, a small opening made in 
the hair network through which the toe is thrust' 

Each Kurdaitcha man when going on his errand is accom- 
panied by a medicine man and the two men are rubbed over 
with charcoal — black being in the Arunta tribe the colour asso- 
ciated with magic — and decorated with bands of white down. 
The hair of both men is tied up behind and a small conical 
helmet of twigs is fastened on with hair string. The Kurd- 
aitcha himself has lines of down passing across the front of 
the helmet, down the side of the face and front of the body 
and legs as far as the knees. The medicine man has a median 
line running from the top of the helmet to the tip of his 
nose ; another curved line meeting this at both ends encloses 

' A considerable number of these shnes are made apparentl}' more for models 
llian for use, and Such tie usually much too small to be worn on a native fool, 
and do not have the small hole, though probably this is not made until the time 


:, The shoe decorated with down ; 2, the under, and 3, upi>er surface ot undecor- 
ated shoe ; 4, human haii string used to lie the shoe to the foot ; 5, small 
churinga carried by the Kurdaitcha, 



the eye of each side ; and on the body a broad band of charcoal 
runs across from shoulder to shoulder and downwards till, at 
the level of the sternum, it divides into two, one passing on 
either side of the mid line and so on as far down as the knee. 
The bands are outlined with white down, and, as the pattern 
is a constant one, the Kurdaitcha man can always be dis- 
tinguished from the medicine man. 

Both of the men wear the Interlinia or shoes which, when 
thus in use, are decorated with lines of white and pink down, 
and, while they are being put on and attached to the feet and 
legs with human hair string, the Kurdaitcha sings 

" Inlerlinia turlaa attipa 
Interlinia altipa." 

which literally translated means " Interlinia to me hold fast, 
interlinia hold fast." There is not, either at the making or at 
the putting on of the shoes, anything in the way of an in- 
cantation beyond this simple one. 

Like the man who is on any particular occasion acting as 
a Kurdaitcha, the doctor himself must be an Ertwa Kurdaitcha 
who has qualified by passing through the ordeal by fire in 
which the toe is dislocated. Both men carry shields and 
spears, and also one or more Churinga, which are supposed 
as usual to impart to them strength, courage, accuracy of aim, 
and also to render them invisible to their enemies, and in 
addition they act as charms to prevent their wearers being 
wounded. Around his waist each one wears the Kirra-urkiia, 
or girdle, made from the hair which has been cut from a 
warrior after his death and which is supposed to add to the 
wearer all the war-like virtues of the dead man. 

Followed by the medicine man the Kurdaitcha takes the 
lead until the enemy is sighted. Then the medicine man falls 
into the rear while the Kurdaitcha stealthily creeps forward 
towards his quarry and suddenly rising up, spears him before 
he is aware of the presence of an enemy. Both medicine man 
and Kurdaitcha have meanwhile put the sacred Churinga 
between their teeth and when they are thus armed the spear 
cannot fail to strike the victim. As soon as this is done the 
Kurdaitcha man goes away to some little distance from the 



fallen man and from which he cannot see the operations of 
the medicine man who now approaches and performs his 
share in the work. By aid of his magic powers and by 
means of the Atnongara stones he heals the victim. These 
Atnongara stones are small crystalline structures which every 
medicine man is supposed to be able to produce at will from 
his own body throughout which it is believed that they are 
distributed— in fact it is the possession of these stones which 
gives to the medicine man his virtue. Into the spear wound 
he rubs a white greasy substance called Emia which he 
obtains by pressure of the skin glands on the outside of the 
nostril. After all external traces of the wound have dis- 
appeared he goes quietly away and, tcgether with the Kur- 
daitcha man returns to his own country. Having been 
touched by the Atnongara stones, the victim returns to life, 
but is completely ignorant of all that has taken place. He 
returns to camp and in a short time sickens and dies. His 
death is attributed to Kurdaitcha or to some other form of 
magic influence, but no one will be able to trace the tracks of 
the Kurdaitcha. 

Another form of Kurdaitcha which has not the sanction of 
the council of elders but is said to be the more favourite 
method of procedure is for the Kurdaitcha to go alone with- 
out the medicine man accompanying him. After killing 
his enemy he allows the body to lie out in the sun for an hour 
or two and then he makes an incision in the tongue through 
which he sucks away the blood which is supposed to have 
accumulated internally. Then he plugs up the spear wound 
with the Alpita (a rat tail tip ornament worn as a con- 
ventional covering) and leaves it there a short time while he 
sings a magic chant. Then the Alpita is removed and a 
small fire stick is held close to the wound so that the skin 
contracts and the wound closes up and heals. Sometimes 
instead of sucking the tongue, the Kurdaitcha catches 
a special kind of slender, smooth bodied lizard {Rko- 
dona bipes) which frequents the roots of Mulga trees and 
inserts the head of the animal into the wound through which 
it is supposed to suck up all the blood. Finally he either 
bites the tongue of the victim or else presses a charmed bone 



called an Injilla under it, the effect of either of which actions 
is to cause the victim to completely lose all recollection of 
what has taken place when, a short time afterwards, he comes 
to life again. The man who has thus been killed returns to 
his camp having no idea of what has happened, and soon 
sickens and dies. 

Whilst there is much of a mythical nature about the Kur- 
daitcha it is quite possible that there is a certain amount of 
truth underlying a good deal that is, of course, a matter of 

pure imagination. It is very possible that the shoes, if not 
actually used at the present day, have been used in past times 
for the purpose of aiding in secret killing and, to the present 
day, the fear of the Kurdaitcha man lurking around is always 
present with the native. We have met several Kurdaitcha 
men who claim to have killed their victim and many more 
men who are perfectly certain that they have seen Kurdaitcha. 
One group of men will tell you that they do not go Kur- 
daitcha but that another group does do so, and if you then 
question the latter they will tell you that they do not, but 



that their accusers do. It is in fact a case of each believing 
the other guilty and both being innocent At the same time 
many will at once confess that they do go Kurdaitcha, when 
as a matter of fact they do not. 

As to the question of tracking, the idea which has been 
generally held, that the shoes are used to prevent the tracks 
being seen will not be regarded as at all satisfactory by those 
who are acquainted with the remarkable power of the 
Australian native in this respect. They will neither hide the 
track nor, though they are shaped alike at each end, will they 
even suffice to prevent any native who cares to look from 
seeing at a glance which direction the wearer has come from, 
or gone towards. Any even moderately experienced native 
will, without the slighest difficulty, tell from the faintest track 
— from an upturned stone, a down-bent piece of grass or a twig 
of shrub — not only that some one has passed by but also the 
direction in which he has travelled. The only way in which 
they can be of use in hiding tracks is by preventing it from 
being rec(^jnised who was the particular individual, and in 
this way they might be of service, for when once an experi- 
enced native — almost incredible though it may sound to those 
who have not had the opportunity of watching them — has 
seen the track of a man or woman he will distinguish it after- 
wards from that of any other individual of his acquaintance. 

Most probably the explanation is, not that the native can- 
not follow the track, but that either he persuades himself that 
he cannot, or, what is still more likely, that the fear of the 
magic power of the dreaded Kurdaitcha causes him, if he 
catches sight of such a track, to avoid as much as possible the 
spot where he has seen it, in just the same way in which an 
ordinary European peasant will avoid the spot haunted by a 

Our impression with r^ard to the Kurdaitcha is that at the 
present day it is merely a matter of myth, though at the same 
time every native is firmly convinced that some other native 
does actually "go Kurdaitcha," and is quite prepared, as a 
general rule, to allow others to think that he himself does ; he 
will even go to the length of suffering the pain of having his toe 
dislocated in order to " prove " that he is a genuine Ertwa Kur- 




daitcha. To those who are personally acquainted with the 
Australian native there will not appear to be anything at 
all improbable in this. He delights in mystery, and for the 
purpose of standing high in the estimation of his fellow men 
will submit to inconveniences and discomforts which perhaps 
appear to a white man to be ludicrously out of all proportion 
to the advantages to be gained, but to him it is far otherwise, 
and the mystery which surrounds and lends importance to the 
individual who has actually, for example, " gone Kurdaitcha," 
is just what appeals to the imagination of the Australian 
native. At the same time it is not by any means improbable 
that at some time past some such custom associated with 
secret killing was even largely practiced, and formed a kind 
of endless vendetta. Possibly some old Oknirabata whose 
superior wisdom had gained for him great repute (just as it 
would do at the present day), perceiving the endless deaths 
which it entailed, introduced the curious and painful ordeal of 
dislocation of the toe as a means of checking the practice. 

During the Engwura which we witnessed a special ceremony 
was performed which had reference to the Kurdaitcha custom. 
This was called the Ininj'a, the word being the name applied 
to a small party of men sent out by the older men of any 
group to kill some special individual. The ceremony was in 
the possession of the Alatunja of a group of Ullakupera (little 
hawk) men and had been received by him from a group of 
natives living out to the east. In connection with the per- 
formance five men were decorated with bands of charcoal edged 
with white down, a line of the latter running straight from the 
top of the helmet along the bridge of the nose and then over the 
upper lip and beard, which was tied back upon the face with 
hair string. A semi-circle of white down, each end of which 
touched the median line surrounded the eyes. Every man 
carried a shield, and was either armed with a spear-thrower or 
boomerang, while one of them carried a long spear, the pointed 
end of which was decorated with down. 

One by one the men ran out with exaggerated high knee 
action from the group of natives who were assembled at one 
side of the Engwura ground. Crouching down in various 
spots, each man lay on the ground with his shield over his 



head and hia body huddled up so as to occupy as little space as 
possible. They all lay perfectly still while an old man armed 
only with a fighting club came and walked about, wandering 
here and there as if he were looking for some track. Then 
the Kurdaitcha men arose and one after the other crept 
stealthily up to him from behind. Suddenly he turned round 
and caught sight of the Kurdaitcha who were just about to 
kill him with a boomerang or spear. Then a mock fight 
took place, in which the Kurdaitcha was always worsted and 
tumbled down, the old man each time giving him a final tap 
with his club, which particularly pleased the audience, for in 
these performances there are certain conventional actions 
which must be observed by the actors. One after another the 
Kurdaitcha men came up, and each was worsted in his turn. 
When apparently all" had been killed the old man still went 
wandering about, and the same performance was again gone 
through. After about fifteen minutes had been spent in tliis way 
the old man leisurely walked back to the group of spectators, 
once more killing each of the men before he got there. 
When close home a combined attack was made upon him, 
but with no success, as he killed them all and the perform- 
ance ended with him standing, brandishing his club over their 
dead bodies, which] were heaped together in front of him. 
The actions of the old man and of the Kurdaitcha men might 
have been copied from a stage fight. 

Tradition relates that the incident to which the performance 
refers actually took place in the far past when a noted warrior 
slew five Kurdaitchas who followed him as he went out 
tracking animals for food. 

The Custom of Illapurinja 

Illapurinja, a word which means " the changed one," is the 
name given to a woman who may be spoken of as, in a 
modified form, a female Kurdaitcha, and whom we may 
regard, at all events at the present day, as being entirely 
a mythical personage, whose existence in the mind of the 
native is concerned mainly with the observance of certain 



customs in connection with mourning for dead relatives. The 
natives' idea with regard to her is as follows. 

On very rare occasions a woman may, at her own request, 
be sent out by her husband to avenge some injury done, or 
supposed to be done, to one of her own kindred. There is 
no such thing as any consultation of the old men in connec- 
tion with this ; in fact, if they knew of its being prepared, 
they would prevent her going, so that the affair is a secret 
one, known only to the woman and her husband. It seems 
as if the Illapurinja has never been a very popular form of 
avenging an injury, and is very rarely mentioned except 
when a medicine man discovers that one of his patients, who 
has been seized with sudden and unaccountable illness, is 
suffering from the attack of an Illapurinja. As usual, the 
natives when questioned on the subject Said that though they 
knew all about it, yet it was a custom which they did not 
practise, or, rather, had not practised for many years, but 
that it was prevalent out to the east. It is only a few years 
since a man was out hunting euros near to Alice Springs, and 
was attacked by an Illapurinja who had come from an out- 
lying group. He was picked up insensible (the day was a 
very hot one, and in all probability the case was one of 
sunstroke), and brought into camp in a dazed condition. 
Under the treatment of an able medicine man, whose 
services were fortunately available, he recovered, after the 
extraction from his body of a number of pieces of a wooden 

When being prepared, the Illapurinja is rubbed all over 
with grease and red ochre and decorated with white down, 
which is fixed on to her body with blood drawn from her 
husband, this being the only occasion known to us on which 
a woman is thus decorated. Her head is ornamented with 
head rings and tufts of tail tips. In one hand she carries 
a long fighting club, the ends of which are decorated with 
down, and in the other a large wooden Churinga, which has 
been specially made for the occasion by her husband. 

When the decoration, which is done in perfect secresy, is 
complete, no one but just the man and woman knowing any- 
thing whatever about it, the husband takes one of her digging 



sticks, fixes it upright in the ground, and ties on to the 
upper end a small tuft of Alpita or rat tails. This he care- 


Carrying in Ihe right hand a chamied siicVandin the left a decorated fighting club. 
She is in the act of Ihrowing the charmed stick at the enemy. 

fully watches while she is away. Should she be killed, then 
the Alpita at once falls to the ground of its own accord ; and 



the husband, understanding what this means, will immediately 
destroy his camp and everything in it which belonged to the 
Illapurinja, and move to a new spot, leaving, however, the 
digging stick and Alpita untouched. 

It is always night time when the woman sets out, and 
after having been decorated, she first of all lies down in the 
camp as if nothing unusual were about to happen ; but when 
her husband is asleep she steals quietly away quite alone, and 
goes to the place where she hopes to find the man or woman 
whom she is in search of. It it be a man, then she lies down 
concealed, and waiting her opportunity, which comes when 
his attention is occupied in stalking a kangaroo or emu. If 
a woman be her quarry, then she hides close to some favourite 
" yam " ground, and when the former is busy digging up the 
tubers she creeps up. In either case the Churinga is thrown 
from behind so as to hit the victim's neck, when it enters the 
body, becoming, as it does so, broken up into a number of 
small pieces. 

The victim at once becomes insensible, and remains so for 
some little time, and, when consciousness is once more re- 
covered, suffers great pain. In the case of an old woman 
death is sure to follow, but in that of a man or younger 
woman, recovery is possible with the aid of a clever medicine 
man, who, after much trouble and by dint of long-continued 
rubbing and sucking, may succeed in extracting the broken 
bits of Churinga from the patient's body. 

If successful, the Illapurinja returns at once to her husband's 
camp, always waiting, however, till it be dark before she 
comes close up to it. During her absence he has made, and 
kept burning, a small fire at some little distance. By the 
side of this she lies down quietly until her husband discovers 
her presence, when he goes and takes her by the arm and 
leads her into his camp, where both of them sit down without 
speaking a word, while he removes all traces of the decorations 
and rubs her with fat and red ochre. The woman then takes 
up the stick to which the Alpita is tied, and sits down, 
while the man asks questions to which she replies, but she 
must not volunteer any information. 

The special breach of custom, with the punishment of which 



the Illapurinja is associated, is the omission of a Mia to cut 
herself as a mark of sorrow on the death of an Umba, that is, 
a daughter blood or tribal. Such an omission is a grave 
ofTence against a dead Umba, and the dread of punishment 
at the hands of an illapurinja must act as a strong inducement 
to secure the proper carrying out of the ceremony. If 
one Mia omits to cut herself, then some other one will go 
in search of her, and, failing the chance of killing her, will 
strike one of the offending woman's brothers. There is now 
living at Alice Springs a man who was thus injured by an 
Illapurinja, and whose life was only just saved, so the natives 
believe, by the exertions of a medicine man. When his 
death does occur, it will undoubtedly be attributed to this 
attack, certain parts of the Churinga — so it will be said — not 
having been extracted. 

This is the only case which has come to our knowledge in 
which a woman is decorated with down fixed on with blood, 
and in which she actually handles a Churinga. The latter, of 
course, is not one of the ancestral Churinga, but it is regarded 
as being a sacred stick, and is spoken of as a Churinga just as 
are certain other similarly shaped sticks which are used in 
various ceremonies, for which they may be specially made. 
All that the woman is told is that the stick has been sung 
over, and is what is called Amngquiltha, that is, charged 
with m^ic and evil influence. 

The whole affair is a superstition kept alive to make some 
women believe that they, or their brothers, will suffer if 
certain ceremonies are not duly attended to, and it is 
worthy of notice that in this instance the victim belongs to 
the same group as the avenger. 

The Atninca or Avenging Party 

Very often one group of natives, that is, the members of 
the tribe inhabiting a particular locality, wiil quarrel with the 
members of some other group either belonging to the same or 
to some other tribe. The quarrel is usually due to one of 
two causes : either some man has stolen a wife from some 
other group, or else the death of a native is attributed by the 



medicine man to the magic of some member of a distant 
group. When this is so, the a^rieved party will arrange to 
make an attack upon the men who are regarded as the 
a^ressors. Most often the attackers, armed with spears and 
spear 'throwers, boomerangs, and shields, will march up to 
the enemies' camp, and the quarrel will be confined to a 
wordy warfare, lasting perhaps for an hour or two, after 
which things quieten down, and all is over ; but in some 
cases a regular fight takes place, in which severe wounds 
may be inflicted. In other cases the attacking party will 
steal down upon the enemy, and, lying in ambush, will await 
an opportunity of spearing one or two of the men without any 
risk to themselves. 

The following incident which happened recently will sei^e 
to show what often takes place. 

The men living in the country round about Alice Springs 
in the Macdonnell Range were summoned by Inwurra, that 
is, properly accredited messengers carrying Churinga, who 
had been sent out by the Alatunja of the group to assemble 
for the of making war upon the lliaura tribe, which 
occupies the country between eighty and a hundred miles to 
the north of the Ranges. 

For a long time the northern groups of the Arunta tribe 
had been in fear of the lliaura, who had been continually 
sending in threatening messages, or at least it was constantly 
reported that they were doing so, for it must be remembered 
that imagination plays a large part in matters such as these 
amongst the natives. Several deaths, also, which had taken 
place amongst the Arunta, had been attributed by the medicine 
men to the evil magic of certain of the lliaura men. When 
the messengers and the men summoned had assembled at 
Alice Springs a council of the elder men was held, at which 
it was determined to make a raid on the lliaura, and accord- 
ingly a party was organised for the purpose. Such an 
avenging party is called an Atninga. 

When all was prepared the Atninga started away for the 
north, and, after travelling for several days, came upon a 
group of lliaura men, consisting of about a dozen families, 
near to whom they camped for two days. 



As usual on such occasions, the Iliaura sent some of their 
women over to the strangers' camp, but the fact that the use 
of the women was declined by the visitors at once indicated 
that the mission of the latter was not a friendly one. The 
women are offered with a view of conciliating the Atninga 
men, who, if they accept the favour, indicate by so doing that 
the quarrel will not be pursued any further. 

In the Iliaura community were two old men, and with them 
matters were discussed by the elder men amongst the Arunta 
at a spot some little distance from the camp of the latter. 
After a long talk extending over two days, during which the 
strangers set forth their grievances and gave the Iliaura men 
very clearly to understand that they were determined to exact 
vengeance, the two old men said, in effect, " Go no further. Our 
people do not wish to quarrel with your people ; there are three 
bad men in our camp whom we Iliaura do not like, they must 
be killed. Two are Iturka (that is men who have married 
within the forbidden degrees of relationship) ; the other is very 
quarrelsome and strong in magic and has boasted of killing 
your people by mean.s of Kurdaitcha and other magic. Kill 
these men, but do not injure any others in our camp, and we 
will help you." 

These terms were accepted by the Arunta, and it was 
agreed between the old men of the two parties that an 
attempt should be made to kill the three men on the next 
day. At daylight the old men of the Iliaura went some 
little distance away from their camp, and there made a fire, 
and called up the other men of their party. This special fire, 
at which it is intended to surprise and kill the men who have 
been condemned and handed over to the tender mercies of 
their enemies, is called Thara (the ordinary word for fire being 
Urd). At the Atninga camp another fire, also called Thara, 
was lighted at the same time. Shortly after daylight a number 
of the Arunta, led by an old man, went over to the Thara of 
the Iliaura, all of them being unarmed, and here they took 
special care to engage the condemned men in conversation. 
The remainder of the Atninga party in full war-paint, with 
whittled sticks in their hair, their bodies painted with red 
ochre, carrying spears, boomerangs, and shields, and each one 



wearing the magic Kirra-urkna or girdle made of a dead 
man's hair, crept up unseen and, suddenly springing up, 
speared two of the condemned men from behind. The third 
man — one of the two Iturka — had grown suspicious during 
the night and had accordingly decamped, taking his women 
with him. 

A large number of spears were thrown into the bodies of 
the men who were killed. When they were dead the Atntnga 
party danced round the bodies, and taking the whittled sticks 
or Ilkunta from their heads, broke them up and threw the 
pieces on to the bodies. These Ilkunta are always worn by 
certain groups of the Northern Arunta when they really mean 
to fight, and amongst the same natives also under these 
circumstances little curved flakes are cut by means of flints 
on their spears about a foot from the pointed end. 

The Iliaura men looked on quietly while the killing took 
place, and when all was over, the spears were taken out of 
the bodies by the men of the Arunta who had acted as decoys, 
and were handed back to their respective owners. It is 
supposed that if the latter themselves removed them some 
great evil would befall them, as the body and anything 
in contact with it of a victim killed in this way is strictly tabu 
to the killer. 

When this had been done, the Arunta went to the main 
camp of the Iliaura and took the Vnawa of one of the dead 
men, and she became and is now the property of the old man 
who seized her, she being a woman of the class into which he 
could lawfully marry. One girl child was annexed by one of 
the younger men, who carried her on his back for the greater 
part of the return journey for about a hundred miles. The 
two women who belonged to the Iturka man were away, but 
no attempt was made to capture them, as being themselves 
Iturka, they would not be taken as wives by the men of the 
avenging party. They would when captured meet with severe 
punishment at the hands of the Iliaura men and inallprobabilitj- 
would be put to death. Had they been the proper Unawa of 
the dead man, they would, if present, have been appropriated 
by men of the Atninga party to whom they were also Unawa. 
The special name of Immirinja is given to the men who 



actually took part in the spearing, those who acted as decoys 
and who thus merely took a passive part, being called 
Alknaiarinika which means " onlookers." 

Travelling back to the Arunta country, the Atninga party 
separated into various contingents, each of which went to its 
own locality, upon arrival at which certain ceremonies had to 
be observed. The Alice Springs contingent, which will serve 
to illustrate what took place in each instance, halted some 
distance away from the main camp and decorated their bodies, 
painting them all over with powdered charcoal and placing on 
their foreheads and through the septum of the nose small twigs 
of a species of Eremophila. As soon as they came in sight 
of the main camp they began to perform an excited war-dance, 
approaching in the form ot a square and holding and moving 
their shields as if to ward off something which was being 
thrown at them. This action is called Irukhiukiwuma and 
is intended to beat off the Ultkana or spirit of the dead 

The Immirinja men were in the lead and, upon arrival 
within sight of the camp, they separated from the others and 
formed a single extended line with spears at rest and their 
shields held in front of them with the convex side outwards. 
Not a word was spoken and the Immirinja stood perfectly 
still looking straight ahead. The Alknaiarinika men, who now 
formed an irregular square in the rear, shouted out, with evident 
enjoyment, the result of the expedition. Then a number of 
old women approached carrying fighting clubs and performing, 
as they came along, a kind of exulting skip movement. 
Each one with her club struck the shield of every one of 
the Immirinja, and when this had been done the men who did 
not go on the expedition followed suit, using their boomerangs. 

The striking of the shields is called ulquita atuma 
{ulquita shields, atuma to strike). This is a ceremony of very 
considerable importance, and every one listens intently to the 
sound which is produced by the blow. It it be hollow 
(atafya), the owner of the shield is under some malignant 
influence and he will not live long ; if, on the other hand, the 
the sound is firm and strong {elatiikima), then he is safe and 
is not a victim of magic. 



After the shield striking was over the women and children 
returned to their camp and the Atninga party marched to the 
corrobboree ground, the Immirinja men remaining perfectly 
silent. There, all sat perfectly silent, the Immirinja in the front 
and the Alknalarinika behind them. After singing and beating 
of boomerangs had gone on for some time two of the Immirinja 
jumped up and, making a wide circuit of the gathering, ran 
round with exaggerated knee action and went through a 
performance in which they imitated the different attitudes of 
attack and defence. They then halted with spears at rest and 
shields held as before, until all of the men who had not been 
with them came up and struck their shields with a boomerang, 
after which they walked back to the party and sat down. 
The same performance was passed through by all the 
Immirinja two at a time. It is supposed to be very effecti\-e 
as a means of frightening the Ulthana, that is the spirit of 
the dead man. One of the shields gave out a hollow sound 
at which all appeared to be much distressed, while some 
shouted out telling the man to hold it straight up. After 
slightly altering the position it was again struck and to the 
apparent relief of the listeners gave out the right sound. 
While this ceremony was in prepress the Alknalarinika men 
were vying with each other in relating the details of the 
expedition, only stopping to listen when the shields were 

Shortly afterwards the men separated and went to their 
respective camps. During that night, and for some days 
afterwards, none of the Immirinja would speak of the 
incidents of the expedition, and they continued to paint their 
bodies with charcoal and to decorate their foreheads and 
noses with green twigs ; finally they painted their bodies and 
faces with bright colours and became free to talk about the 
aBair. Their troubles were not yet over however. The 
f/Ma«<]' or spirit of the dead man is supposed to follow the 
party in the form of a little bird called Clnchurkna and is 
constantly on the look-out to injure the Immirinja. While 
flying it makes a noise like a child crying in the distance, and. 
should any one of the men fail to hear this, he would become 
paralysed in his right arm and shoulder. At night time 



especially, when the Chiclmrkna is flying over the camp, they 
have to be wakeful, and, when lying down, are always careful 
to conceal the right arm and shoulder lest the bird should look 
down upon and injure them, and every man wears Alpita in 
his hair which is supposed to help him to keep awake, the 
rabbit- kangaroo from which It comes being a nocturnal 
animal and so acts as a charm against his being surprised by 
the Ckiclmrkna. When once the voice has been heard there 
is no further fear, because the Ultltana recognises that it has 
been watched for and detected and is therefore powerless to 
do any harm. 

Some little lime afterwards the shields of all the men were 
again tested to see that they were sound. 

This killing of Iturka men by strange blacks belonging 
to other groups has been a common practice amongst the 
tribes. When a case of this kind arises, the old men of the 
fjroup to which the offender belongs hold a meeting to dis- 
cuss the matter, and if all of them vote in favour of the 
death of a man or woman, a neighbouring group is asked 
to come and carry out the sentence. Sometimes it is 
agreed that the offending parties are to be punished in 
some less severe way, perhaps by cutting the man's legs or 
by burning the woman with a fire-stick, and then if after 
this the two still continue to live tt^ether, the death penalty 
will be carried out. 

Sometimes, but only rarely, a man is strong enough to 
resist, but even if he be successful his life is at best a miserable 
one as he dare not come anywhere near the camps, but is 
forced to live in inaccessible parts in constant fear of being 
surprised and put to death. At Charlotte Waters, for example, 
there has been in recent years a case of this kind. One of the 
finest men of the group carried off a woman who was not his 
lawful Una'>va, both the man and the woman belonging to the 
Furula class,' For two or three years the two led a wander- 
ing life away from the usual haunts and several attempts were 
made to kill them, the woman being very severely wounded 

' They were, according to our terms of relationship, cousins. Their mothers 
HL-re the daughters of the same woman by diFTcrent husbands. 



on one occasion. The man, however, was a formidable 
antagonist of well-known prowess, and after having 
killed two of the men who attempted to punish him and 
nearly killing the proper husband of the woman, it was 
thought best to leave him alone, though up to the present 
day when quarrels occur in which he is concerned he is oflen 
taunted with being Iturka. 




Earth buiiat in the Aiunta I ribe— Depression mnde on the ade of the grave &cing 
the place from which the spirit of the individual came original ly— Hair cut 
off a man— As a general rule nothing buried with the body—Burning of the 
camp — Amongst the Wariamunga and northern tribes the body is placed on 
a platform in a tree until the flesh has shrivelled up — Degrees of Eiilence to be 
observed bj- dilleTenl individuals in regard to mentioning the name of the 
dead — Special restrictions on the sons-in-law of a dead man — The widow ■ 
paints herself with pipeclay, and at first remains in camp, silent, speaking by 
means of gesture language^ Ceremony to remove the ban of silence— Widow 
and younger brothers — Ceremony of Urpmikhima at the grave — Wearing of 
the bone chaplet — The women culling themselves upon the grave — Urpmil- 
chima of a woman— No man allowed to attend the ceremony at the grave— 
The object of psintii^ the body white is to attract the attention of the spirit. 

Within a very short time of death the body jin the 
Arunta tribe is buried. It is placed in a sitting position 
with the knees doubled up against the chin, and is thus in- 
terred in a round hole in the ground, the earth being piled 
directly on to the body so as to make a low mound with a 
depression on one side. This is always made on the side 
which faces towards the direction of the dead man or woman's 
camping ground in the Alcheringa, that is the spot which he 
or she inhabited whilst in spirit form : the object of this is to ' 
allow of easy ingress and egress to the Ultkana or spirit which 
is supposed to spend part of the time until the final ceremony 
of mourning has been enacted in the grave, part watching 
over near relatives, and part in the company of its Arumbnringa^ 
that is its spiritual double who lives at the Natija spot. 

In the case of a man the hair is cut off from his head and 
his necklaces, armlets and fur string used for winding round his 
head are carefully preserved for further use. In the Eastern 
Arunta it is said that sometimes a little wooden vessel used 

K K 



in camp for holding small objects may be buried with the 
man, but this is the only instance which has come to our 
knowledge in which anything ordinarily used is buried in the 
grave. Amongst the Udnirringita (witchetty grub) people one 
or more of the round stone Churinga which are supposed ta 
represent the eggs of the grub in the Alcheringa may be 
buried with the man, but this is the only instance in which \ve 
can find that anything of a sacred nature is buried with him. 

As soon as burial has taken place, the man or woman's camp 
in which death occurred is at once burnt down, and all 
the contents are then destroyed — in the case of a woman 
nothing whatever being preserved — and the whole of the local 
encampment is shifted to a new place. Earth burial directly 
after death occurs from the Urabunna tribe in the south 
as far north as the Warramunga at Tennant's Creek. 
Amongst the latter the body is at first placed on a platform 
made of boughs in a tree until such time as the flesh has 
disappeared, when the bones, with the exception of the 
smaller ones from the arms which are used for the purpose of 
making pointing bones, are taken down and buried. 

It is generally supposed that amongst Australian natives the 
name of a dead man is never mentioned. This is not however 
strictly true as regards the Arunta tribe. There are various 
degrees of silence to be observed by different persons and 
these are dependent upon the mutual relationship which 
existed between the dead and living individual. During the 
period of mourning which follows immediately upon the death 
of a man and occupies a period of from twelve to eighteen 
months, no person must mention the name of the deceased 
except it be absolutely necessary to do so, and then only in a 
whisper for fear of disturbing and annoying the man's spirit 
which in ghost form, or as they call it, Ultkana, walks about. 
If the Ultkana hears his name mentioned he comes to the con- 
clusion that his relatives are not properly mourning for him — 
if their grief were genuine it wouid cause them too much pain 
to hear his name mentioned to allow them to do so — and so he 
will come and trouble them in their sleep, to show them that 
he is not pleased with them. 

All individuals who are Okilia Oknta, Mia, Ungaraitdia^ 



Vwinna, or Mura of the dead man or woman may never 
mention his or her name, nor. may they ever go near to the 
grave when once the ceremony of Urpmilchima, shortly to be 
described, has been performed. Those who were Allira^ Itia, 
Untbima, Umba, UnkuUa, Unawa, Ikuntera, Chimmia, or 
Arunga may, when the time of mourning is over, speak of the 
dead and mention his name without fear of incurring the 

anger of the Ulthana. As a matter of fact the grave is very 
seldom indeed visited by any one for a long time after the 
burial ; no camp will be formed close to where a grave has 
been made for at least two years' time for fear of disturb- 
ing the Ulthana. 

The Gammona of the deceased, that is the men who 
may lawfully marry his daughters — whether they actually 

K K 2 



do 30 or not makes no difference — must not only never 
mention his name, but they neither attend the actual burial, 
nor do they take any part in the subsequent mourning 
ceremonies which are carried on at the grave. It is their 
duty to cut themselves on the shoulder when the man who 
is their Ikuntera or father-in-law dies. If a son-in-law 
does not well and faithfully perform this cutting rite, which 
is called Unangara, then some Ikuntera will punish him by 
giving away his special Unawa or wife to some other man to 
appease the Ulthana of the dead father-in-law. 

The name of the latter is strictly tabu to the Gammona. 
and if by any chance he should hear the name mentioned in 
camp, he will at once rattle his boomerangs together so as to 
prevent his knowing what is being said. 

Every man bears on his shoulders, as will be seen clearly in 
many of the illustrations, the raised cicatrices, which exist as 
the permanent record of the fact that he has fulfilled his duty 
to a dead father-in-law. 

When a man dies his special Unawa or Unawns smear 
their hair, faces and breasts with white pipeclay and remain 
silent for a certain time until a ceremony called Aralkililima 
has been performed.' The widow is called Inpirta, which 
means the whitened one in reference to the pipeclay. Some- 
times she smears over the pipeclay ashes from a fire, in 
which case she is called Ura-inpirta, ura meaning fire. In 
some of the more northern tribes, as for example amongst the 
Warramunga living on Tennant's Creek, the widows are not 
allowed to speak for sometimes as long a period as twelve 
months, during the whole of which time they communicate 
only by means of gesture language. In the latter they are so 
proficient that they prefer, even when there is no obligation 
upon them to do so, to use it in preference to speaking. Not 
seldom, when a party of women are in camp, there will be 
almost perfect silence and yet a brisk conversation is all the 
while being conducted on their fingers or rather with their 
hands and arms, as many of the signs are made by putting 

' Amongst the WaiTBTnunga tribe, the widow crops her hair shorr, and after 
cutting open the middle line of the scalp, runs a Are-stick along the wound, often 
with serious results. 



the hands, or perhaps the elbows, in varying positions. 
Many of the positions assumed by the 6ngers are such that 
it is not at all easy for a white man to imitate them, and yet 
by long practice the native can place his fingers in the most 
wonderful variety of positions with regard to one another and 
at the same time move them about in a way which no white 
man can, except with extreme difficulty and very slowly. 

When among the Arunta the widow wishes the ban of 
silence to be removed, 
she gathers a large 
wooden vessel, called 
a Tirna, full of some 
edible seed or small 
tuber and smears her- 
self afresh with white 
pipeclay at the Erluk- 
■wirra, or women's 
camp, where she has 
been living since her 
husband's death. Car- 
rying the Tirna, and 
accompanied by the 
women whom she has 
gathered together for 
the purpose, she walks 
to the centre of the 
encampment midway 

between the two sec- ^^^. ,oo_^y,po^^. smeared with kaolin 

tions of the common- and wearim; the chimi'bii-ia. 

ity, that is to the creek 

or whatever natural feature it may be which serves to divide the 
Bukhara and Panunga moiety from the Kumara and Purula. 
Here they all sit down and cry loudly, whereupon the men 
who were the Allira and Itia, that is the sons and younger 
brothers of the dead man (blood and tribal), come up and join 
the party. The men take the Tirna from the hands of the 
widow and, as many as possible taking hold of it, they shout 
loudly "Wahf wakf wak.'" The women except the widow 
stop crying and join in the shout. After a short time the Tirna 



is held close to, but not touching, the face of the widow and 
passes are made to right and left of her cheeks, while all again 
shout " Wah! wak! wakl" The widow now stops her crying 
and utters the same shout, only in subdued tones. After a fe«' 
minutes the Tima is passed to the rear of the men who now, 
squatting on the ground and holding their shields in both 
hands, strike them heavily on the ground in front of the 
women who are standing. The widow springs to her feet and 
joins in the shouts of " Wah! wah! wah!" which accompany 
for some minutes the striking of the shields. 'When this is over 
the men disperse to their camps and eat the food brought in 
the Tima by the widow, who is now free to speak to them, 
though she still continues to smear herself with pipeclay. 
The meaning of this ceremony, as symbolised by the 
gathering of the tubers or grass seed, is that the widow is 
about to resume the ordinary occupations of a woman's life, 
which have been to a large extent suspended while she 
remained in camp in what we may call deep mourning. It is 
in fact closely akin in feeling to the transition from deep to 
narrow black-edged paper amongst certain more highly 
civilised peoples. The offering to the sons and younger 
brothers is intended both to show them that she has properly 
carried out the first period of mourning and to gain their 
goodwill as they, especially the younger brothers, are 
supposed to be for some time displeased with a woman 
when her husband is dead and she is alive. In fact 
a younger brother meeting the wife of a dead elder 
brother out in the bush, performing the ordinary duties of a 
woman such as hunting for " yams " within a short time of her 
husband's death, would be quite justified in spearing her. The 
only reason that the natives give for this hostile feeling is that 
it grieves them too much when they see the widow because it 
reminds them of the dead man. This however can scarcely be 
the whole reason, as the same rule does not apply to the elder 
brothers, and very probably the real explanation of the feeling 
is associated, in some way, with the custom according to 
which the widow will, when the final stage of mourning is 
over, become the wife of one of these younger brothers whom 
at first she has to carefully avoid. 



After the lapse of perhaps twelve or eighteen months the 
ceremony of Urpmilchima is performed at the grave. The 
meaning of this term is " trampling the twigs on the grave." 

Previously to this the widow has been saving up small 
bones of any animal such as the jaws of opossums or rabbit- 
kangaroos, or leg and arm bones of various small animals. 
She also procures the same from her tribal sisters. From the 
female Itia, AlUra and Uniba of the dead man she obtains 
.short locks of hair to which by means of Atcha, the resin 
obtained from the porcupine grass, she attaches firmly the 
bones, which are then hung on, in little groups, to one of the 
hair head rings which are commonly worn by women. In 
addition she procures Alpha and makes plumes out of the tail 
feathers of the ring-necked